The New York Times Co. is in advanced talks to sell its regional newspapers, including the Petaluma Argus-Courier, The Press Democrat and the North Bay Business Journal, to a Florida-based media group.
The move is widely seen as an effort by The New York Times Co. to focus on its largest operations, like the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
Halifax Media Group, a Daytona Beach, Fla.-based company that owns The Daytona-Beach News Journal, is seeking to buy the Times Company's Regional Media Group.
Details on the terms and timeline for the sale were scarce as of Wednesday. News about the pending sale was leaked on Monday when the Halifax Group's website briefly listed all of the Times Company's regional papers as its own, alerting a media blogger and triggering a public confirmation by Times Company officials that a sale was imminent. Since Monday morning, Halifax Media Group's website has been down. A call to Halifax Media's CEO, Michael Redding, was not returned.
According to Press Democrat Media Group Publisher Bruce Kyse, news about a sale agreement could come at any time. The Press Democrat provides printing, distribution, and accounting services for the Argus-Courier, but the newsrooms operate separately.
Kyse said he didn't foresee any major changes with the Argus-Courier and its website, Petaluma360.com, describing them as "vital components" of the media group's business.
Argus-Courier Publisher John Burns said it was too soon to comment on how the sale might affect Petaluma's newspaper. "We are all in a wait-and-see mode at the moment, and eager to learn more," he said. "For the time being, we'll continue to do our best to serve the needs of our readers and advertisers."
Sports Editor John Jackson, one of eight Argus-Courier employees, has seen two other newspapers he's worked for change hands, something he said occurs in the news business just as it does in any other business.
"You never know what it really means until all the facts are in, but our job never changes," he said, echoing Burns' sentiments that the reporters will strive to continue to provide the best local news coverage possible.
The Argus-Courier's history reaches back to 1855, three years before Petaluma was incorporated as a city. It has seen many changes in that time, running as a daily paper until the mid-1990s, when it started being published twice weekly. It became a weekly in 1999.
The Olmsted family owned the paper for 65 years starting in 1900 and was responsible for merging the Argus and the Courier. In 1965, Scripps League of Newspapers bought the Argus-Courier. That group sold it to Pulitzer Newspapers in 1996.
The New York Times purchased the paper as part of its regional media group on Sept. 1, 2001. Under the New York Times' ownership, the Argus-Courier initiated www.petaluma360.com. It was the first non-traditional news website in the New York Times' group of papers, including blogs, discussion forums, photo galleries and more.
The Argus-Courier took first place awards for general excellence among all medium sized weekly newspapers in the state in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
It has a paid print circulation of 5,800 and more than 100,000 unique users on its website, petaluma360.com.
(Contact the Argus-Courier at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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