Glenn County papers merge into one publication
Beginning Aug. 8, the Orland Press-Register and the Willows Journal are scheduled to be compacted into a single paper called the Glenn Transcript. Those papers currently come out twice weekly, but the Transcript will be published only on Wednesdays.
The move follows the purchase of the papers in May by Vista California News Media, Inc. from Freedom Communications Inc. The two papers, along with the Colusa County Sun-Herald and the Corning Observer in Tehama County, are collectively known as the Tri-County Newspapers.
“There is no longer a strong enough advertising base to merit publishing as many days per week,” said Owen Van Essen, president of New Mexico-based newspaper merger and acquisition company Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which facilitated the purchase. “It’s better to have one strong newspaper than two weak singles.”
Tim Crews, publisher of the competing Sacramento Valley Mirror, offered a possible explanation for the lack of local advertising dollars.
“When most big-shot Glenn County officials and teachers leave work, they go home to Chico where they shop and spend their money,” he said.
Staffers for the Willows and Orland papers would not comment on the merger, and their publisher, Paula Patton, confirmed the change without going into detail about possible staffing changes. The new parent group, Vista, which could not be reached for comment, is affiliated with Illinois-based Horizon Publications, publisher of several dozen community newspapers in the United States and Canada.
While the circulation for both papers is relatively small—Patton said the Orland Press-Register prints 909 papers and the Willows Journal prints 1,102—the impact on readers in Glenn County will be immediately apparent, with fewer issues being printed and coming from a single source.
Crews, whose Sacramento Valley Mirror also covers both cities, said he was saddened by the news. “We need the competition,” he said, lamenting the reduction in print frequency of the new publication.
“When newspapers lower their coverage, it’s not good for the communities or the readers,” Crews said. “It was bad enough that they each only came out twice a week. This stuff gets stale.”
However, Crews said merging the two papers will not be a significant change.
“They have both been fundamentally the same paper for 20 years,” he said. “They just have a few different local stories in places like their front pages or the sports sections.”
Each paper will retain its respective website on which to update news in between the Wednesday print days at www.orland-press-register.com and www.willows-journal.com, as reported in the Orland Press-Register on July 24. That same issue said the Glenn Transcript will create a “community news” page with local events and notices such as weddings, anniversaries, clubs and church events submitted by readers.
Vista’s May buyout also included the Marysville Appeal-Democrat newspaper, which has a circulation of 16,000 and is California’s oldest daily newspaper. It was formed in 1926 with the merger of the Marysville Appeal (founded in 1860) and the Marysville Evening Democrat (founded in 1884).
Patton, who is also the publisher of the Appeal-Democrat, was quoted in that paper on May 31 as having a positive outlook on the merger. “We look forward to continuing to serve our markets as leading sources of news and advertising in print and online,” she said. “It will largely be business as usual for Appeal-Democrat and [Tri-Counties Newspapers] customers and employees.”
The other two Tri-County Newspapers, the Colusa County Sun-Herald and the Corning Observer, will likewise be reduced from a twice-weekly to a once-a-week printing.
The new Glenn Transcript will be produced and printed at the Appeal-Democrat offices in Marysville, as were the Orland and Willows papers.
Van Essen, who helped with the merger, speculated that the union of the two papers may also be related to the rise of the Internet. “If people can access the paper online, do they really need a printed sheet?” he asked.
Van Essen said that even though many rural readers of both papers may be older, it’s still likely they are frequent users of the Internet.
“My 90-year-old mother still reads the newspaper, but she also has an iPad and gets much of her news from it,” he said.