GateHouse purchase of Homer News means little change

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” wrote the 19th century French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Loosely translated, that means, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

That describes well the situation here at the paper with the recent announcement that the Homer News, along with other Morris Communications -Morris Publishing Group newspapers, will be sold to GateHouse Media. Our sister Alaska papers the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion also will be sold to GateHouse. We will continue to do our jobs as we have, with no layoffs or editorial changes.

Since its founding in 1964, the Homer News has been owned by six people or groups: 1964, Hal and Marion Thorn; 1969, Gertrude Lucille Billings; 1973, Larry and Linda Gjosund; 1974, Gary Williams; 1977, Tod and Howard Simons, Martin Cohen and Tom Gibboney, a group from the Washington Post and an Anchorage Daily News managing editor; and most recently, Morris Communications. The sale to GateHouse should happen as smoothly and with about the same minimal impact as happened when the Morris family bought the Homer News 17 years ago.

Last week, a representative of GateHouse met with Homer News staff and addressed these concerns:

• Editorial control: the Homer News and other new GateHouse papers will be autonomous and trusted to cover local news as we know best.

• Staff changes: Every current Homer News or Morris Publishing Group employee will be offered employment with GateHouse. We will keep our health insurance and other benefits, with deductibles and vacation time rolled over to a new plan. Some benefits will be better. No one will be laid off. In fact, we’re looking for a new graphic artist, so check out the ad in our classified section if you want to apply.

• Layout and graphics art assistance: GateHouse offers company wide layout, graphic arts and copyediting assistance, but if our budget allows, much of that will be done locally.

• Offices and printing: As far as we know, we will remain in our current offices on the south shore of Beluga Lake at 3482 Landings Street. We’ve been here since 1987. The Peninsula Clarion press in Kenai prints our paper, and since they’re part of the GateHouse purchase, that will continue.

We can understand that readers and advertisers might be nervous about having a large national corporation become the owner of the Homer News — but we already have a large corporate owner. Newspapers aren’t like auto parts dealers or other chain operations, where a store in Peoria might look just like a store in Topeka. Every newspaper has its own look and personality, its own unique identity, a style shaped by the paper’s history, its staff and the community it supports. When a media corporation acquires new properties, it expects and desires that local flavor.

Though we’re getting a new corporate owner and there will be some likely frustrations during the transition, here at the Homer News we will continue to do what we’ve always done: cover the events and people of our town honestly, fairly and accurately. Journalism by its nature covers change. We’re used to it, we embrace it and we will roll with it.

-Michael Armstrong, editor