We resolve to continue building a better newspaper


By Rick Carpenter - rick@altustimes.com



I lived up to my 2017 New Year’s resolution, which eventually resulted in me and two partners buying a group of newspapers in Oklahoma.

About this time last year, Larry Miller and I started looking at buying newspapers at a time when many newspapers were folding. We have each owned our own newspapers and worked for newspapers companies that often cared more about the bottom line than covering their communities.

Many of those newspapers produced 20 percent profit margins at one time, but as the younger generation moved to get their news online versus in print, those margins dropped rapidly.

When those profit margins dropped, the companies began squeezing the staffs of newspapers to try to build that profit margin back. To fill those holes in news coverage, they began increasing the amount of news provided by organizations such as Associated Press and Reuters or just running press releases without asking critical questions of the people submitting those releases.

Most people get their national and international news from what’s available online for free or by watching news channels that have now evolved into arms of political parties, thereby offering viewers a chance to get news that coincides with their personal beliefs. To wit, Fox News, MSNBC and oftentimes CNN.

From owning our own newspapers and living in those communities, we realized that as some newspapers turned their backs on local communities, people would stop subscribing which would reduce the value of their advertising. We still believe in the importance and value of a hometown newspaper and what it can mean to a community.

When we found that The Altus Times, The Durant Democrat and The Frederick Press-Leader were for sale, we starting trying to find a way to finance the purchase.

These newspapers appealed to us because we both grew up in Oklahoma and have ties to the state and we both graduated from the University of Oklahoma journalism school in 1976. Larry also has a son living in Austin and I have a mother, sister, brother-in-law and nephew living in north Texas.

I visited my family in north Texas during the Memorial Day weekend and picked up Larry at a Dallas airport, then took a few days to drive to the communities and get a feeling for them. I fell in love with Altus because I saw what was going on with Main Street as well as approving a sales tax that funded city improvements such as city hall.

Like so many newspapers nationwide, I also noticed that the newspaper had gone down that path of limited local content with more wire copy, what we call Associated Press stories. By adding more local copy in all of our markets we felt they would better reflect the vibrancy, energy and pride in the communities.

After visiting the communities, we looked at our strengths and weakness and who fit into each community best. At the same time we realized we had limited technology knowledge and experience so we approached a third potential owner, Michael Clift who agreed to join us. He also knows how to run presses and where to find production and circulation savings.

Most people thought we were crazy to venture into a business that has been dying across the country. We understand that sentiment but believe that if we build quality newspapers that accurately reflects our communities and tells their stories, subscribers and advertisers will come back.

My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to continue building our products. You can help by telling me what kind of news we’re missing and what you’re curious about in the community. It’s a risky investment, but to borrow a phrase from “Field of Dreams,” we’re hoping that if we build it, you will come.

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times and president of Graystone Media Group, owners of the newspaper. Reach him at (580) 379-0545.

By Rick Carpenter

rick@altustimes.com

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times and president of Graystone Media Group, owners of the newspaper. Reach him at (580) 379-0545.

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times and president of Graystone Media Group, owners of the newspaper. Reach him at (580) 379-0545.

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