Morris Communications sells off Juneau Empire and two other Alaska papers

Juneau. (Photo by Brian Boyd/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Juneau Empire has a new owner this morning after the announcement that Morris Communications is selling off 11 of its newspapers, including two others in Alaska.

The New York-based GateHouse Media will take ownership of the Empire as well as the Peninsula Clarion and the Homer News. The sale is described as a “strategic restructuring” for the company and is expected to be finalized on Oct. 2 of this year.

Under the sale agreement, the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion will keep their shared publisher, Deedie McKenzie, according to a post on the Empire’s website.

“The sale of the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion is bittersweet,” said McKenzie in the Empire. “The Morris family has been tremendously committed to our papers, however Gatehouse is a dynamic company that understands community journalism. The papers will get the benefit of having the resources available from a large, national company while continuing to have the guidance from the Morris family. I’m extremely pleased that we will be joining their team.”

The announcement of the sale did not include mention of the Alaska Journal of Commerce, which Morris Communications also owns. It’s likely that the publication will be held onto as part of the company’s “strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle and niche publications, broadband operations, property development and new business.”

The terms of the sale have not been publicly disclosed.

About GateHouse Media

GateHouse Media currently operates in some 36 states and 555 markets, according to its corporate website. Many of the papers it runs are small, community-based weekly publications, but it owns some heavy hitters like The Columbus Dispatch.

The publicly traded company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2013, but CEO Michael Reed said in a memo to GateHouse employees that it didn’t have to do with “any operational problem,” but instead a need to restructure its debt in order to make further investments and growth in the newspaper industry.

The Empire Endorsement

Being owned by the conservative Morris family hasn’t been perfectly smooth for the Juneau Empire. In the run-up to last year’s elections the family had the Juneau Empire and a handful of other publications run endorsements of now-President Donald Trump. It left some of the paper’s more liberal readers fuming. Combined that with the paper’s tough reporting on Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz’s letters that supported two child sex abusers (a report that many attribute to her defeat) and not many in the Juneau political scene were particularly happy with the paper.

At least papers under the GateHouse Media ownership have been able to exercise a little more editorial freedom.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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