Family Owners & Next Generation Leadership

Profile of an Independently-Owned Newspaper: From news desert to new owners to progress

Dennis Hetzel, Bill Horner and Buck Ryan
Dennis Hetzel, Bill Horner and Buck Ryan
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Presented by Dennis Hetzel (moderator), principal, Fresh Angle Communications, with Buck Ryan, director, Citizen Kentucky Project and School of Journalism and Media, University of Kentucky, and Bill Horner III, publisher and editor, Chatham News + Record, Siler City, North Carolina

The privately-held Chatham News + Record in North Carolina is working hard to bring strong local journalism to this urban-rural hybrid county outside Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. A sustainable business model is key to its success.

As the newspaper industry struggles with “ghosting the news” and higher education teeters on its relevance, the transformation of the News + Record represents an experimental model that's working — with much work left to do.

Over the past two years, the new owners of the paper have significantly increased both print and digital audiences while addressing the revenue challenges everyone faces.

The paper is generating a high quantity and quality of local news content — punching well above its weight for a staff you can count on one hand. This is especially heartening because the paper is in a county that was on the "news desert" list.

Part of the paper's success lies in partnerships that Bill Horner, the paper's publisher and editor, has established with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Missouri, the Table Stakes initiative and Buck Ryan of the University of Kentucky. Prior to purchasing the paper, Horner was in the newsroom of the Sanford (North Carolina) Herald for many years.

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For more information, contact:
Patty Slusher: pslusher@newspapers.org
or 847-282-9850, ext. 102

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