An update on our family business

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It’s been just over 10 months since I fired myself as publisher of The Daily Record. As I wrote in my farewell column on June 29 of last year, “My family continues to own the paper, which my father started in 1950. We’re still optimistic about the community newspaper business and about this community in particular.”

All of that remains true. But it would be crazy to pretend our industry isn’t operating in a vastly changing media landscape. And our new publisher, Keven Zepezauer, has the skills needed to lead a growing organization through change.

“Growing organization?” some of you may be wondering. “Aren’t newspapers dying?”

I’ve even heard rumors that The Daily Record is going out of business or that my family has sold it.

That means it’s probably time for me to offer an update on our family business. Despite any talk of gloom and doom, our sights are set on meaningful growth in the coming years.

When Keven joined The Daily Record, it was through a management agreement with The Wilson Times, which is owned by my friend Morgan Dickerman (Keven is also the publisher in Wilson).

Morgan and I had talked for years about ways our papers could work together to gain some of the efficiencies enjoyed by larger newspaper groups. As other family-owned dailies around us got swallowed up by those groups, Morgan and I continued to talk.

We were both committed to staying independent, but it had become harder for stand-alone community newspapers to operate profitably. In fact, The Wilson Times and The Daily Record are the last two family-owned dailies in the state.

Now, as you may have read in Friday’s edition, Morgan and my family are taking our partnership to the next level with the formation of Restoration Newsmedia, a media management company that will work to preserve and strengthen community journalism in the towns we serve.

My siblings — Brent Adams and Maere Kay Lashmit — and I will continue to own The Daily Record, as well as the twice-weekly Courier-Times in Roxboro and the weekly Mount Olive Tribune. Morgan will continue to own The Wilson Times, as well as the weekly papers he has acquired: The Enterprise in Spring Hope, the Johnstonian News in Kenly, The Wake Weekly in Wake Forest and The Butner-Creedmoor News.

But we’ll operate all eight papers under the Restoration Newsmedia umbrella. This will give each individual newspaper more operating efficiencies while enabling each staff to focus on what is most important: Serving readers with great local content and serving advertisers by helping them reach and attract their best customers and prospects.

Keven is president of the new entity as well as group publisher for the newspapers. Morgan and I will co-chair Restoration Newsmedia.

Currently, the group has about 70 staffers. But Morgan, Keven and my family will continue to entertain opportunities to acquire other community newspapers as they arise.

As Keven said in Friday’s article, “We believe our model can help save community newspapers and restore sustainable local news coverage to cities and towns that may otherwise be in danger of becoming news deserts.”

But there can be a downside whenever businesses start talking about efficiencies: In our case, we had to make the painful decision to close our print facility, Sunbelt Press, and move our printing to the News & Observer’s plant in Garner.

As the one who started the printing operation back in 1983, under the name Adams Graphics, this was a tough reality to face. But the N&O plant, which is owned by newspaper giant McClatchy, is highly automated and can buy paper and ink at lower prices than we could ever hope to. The decision became unavoidable.

Tracy McLamb, the general manager of The Daily Record and other newspapers in our group, has put Sunbelt Press staffers in contact with potential new employers in the industry. So far, that effort has been successful, which is a testament to the talent and work ethic of these great people.

Also, The Daily Record is now home to a new advertising design hub that will create ads for other newspapers in our group and offer that service to other publications.

The group operates Kingsdale Media, a digital marketing agency that will serve advertisers in all the communities we serve. We also have other new digital products to offer.

In short, the formation of Restoration Newsmedia should help The Daily Record and its sister newspapers thrive for years to come. And we’ll still be locally-owned.

Contact Bart Adams at bart@restorationnewsmedia.com.

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