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The McLaughlin family, Miami County newspaper publishers for 84 years, announced today they are selling their community papers in Paola, Osawatomie and Louisburg to the publishers of the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, according to John Cribb, Cribb & Associates, who represented the McLaughlins in the sale.

Phil McLaughlin, publisher and principal owner of the Miami County Republic, the Osawatomie Graphic and the Louisburg Herald, said the decision was prompted by a desire to pursue other personal interests, and by the opportunity to pass the publications to an established nearby publisher committed to serving the local communities. “We see this as a unique opportunity to pass on newspapers we care deeply about to another newspaper family with similar news values, local emphasis and a commitment to small communities,” McLaughlin said. “Not only does the Bradley family produce quality newspapers and treat employees like valued assets, they also have the resources to nurture and support the Republic, Graphic and Herald in ways we never could.” The McLaughlin family sold to the larger Bradley family operation because it will be able to provide the technical expertise and financial clout to meet both current and future challenges, McLaughlin said. “Our company has become too large in staff and management needs for a couple to handle alone,” he said. “As our communities grow, so will the newspapers. This problem was certain to worsen over time.”

David R. Bradley, president of both News-Press & Gazette Co. and NPG Newspapers, the operating unit for the St. Joseph-based company’s publications, said he looked forward to serving Miami County and the surrounding area with newspapers designed to meet the specific needs and interests of local residents and businesses. “We have deep roots in local newspaper publishing, and we think we understand what it takes to publish a good local newspaper,” Bradley said. “The best newspapers are filled with accurate, informative and interesting local news and feature content, sports coverage, opinions, photos and advertisements. The papers we are acquiring all have dedicated staffs who share these values. We intend to support them fully in serving their readers and advertising customers.”

Phil McLaughlin’s grandfather, Drew, acquired the Paola newspaper then known as The Miami Republican in 1920. The paper merged with a competing newspaper in 1956 and Miami County Publishing Co. was formed. Phil McLaughlin’s father, Drew Jr., was active as publisher of the newspapers until his death in 1982, when he was succeeded by his son. Phil McLaughlin has worked for the company 27 years and oversaw the acquisition of the Osawatomie and Louisburg newspapers in 1998 from their longtime publishers, Webster and Gladys Hawkins of Osawatomie. McLaughlin and his wife, Sarah, have held majority ownership of the newspapers. His mother, Marjorie, retired from the Republic and moved to Overland Park in 1992. She now lives in Lawrence and has retained a minority ownership interest. This is a bittersweet time for the McLaughlin family, publisher McLaughlin said. “We know selling the newspapers is the right decision for us personally and for the communities, but it is hard to step away from such a deep commitment over so many years,” he said.

The sale, projected to close Oct. 1, will add three newspapers to the roster of NPG Newspapers: the Miami County Republic, with twice-weekly circulation of 4,000 and 4,750 copies; the Osawatomie Graphic, with weekly circulation of 3,000; and the Louisburg Herald, with weekly circulation of 1,950. The newspapers’ reach encompasses part of eastern Kansas south of the Kansas City metropolitan area, including all of Miami County and parts of Johnson, Franklin, Anderson and Linn counties.

In addition to News-Press & Gazette Co.’s flagship newspaper in St. Joseph, it also publishes newspapers in Atchison and Hiawatha, Kansas, in northeast Kansas, and in Smithville and Kearney, Missouri, to the north of Kansas City. Recently, the company also purchased a group of community newspapers serving Gladstone, Liberty, Clay County, Platte County, Raytown and the neighborhoods along the Ward Parkway corridor in south Kansas City, Missouri.

Bradley said the recent acquisitions have been driven largely by the availability of good properties that fit with the company’s core mission of serving local readers and advertisers. “We believe in the future of community newspapers, and we feel fortunate that we have had several recent opportunities to add to our operations in this area,” he said

News-Press & Gazette Co. also owns and operates cable television systems in St. Joseph, Arizona and California; broadcast television stations in Texas, Arizona, California and Oregon; and Internet services linked to its properties. Bradley and Lee Sawyer, general manager of NPG Newspapers, said they would take the time before the completion of the purchase to meet with staff members of the Miami County papers to learn more about specifics of the day-to-day operations. They thanked McLaughlin for agreeing to assist with management of the newspapers for a brief transition period. Sawyer added that Dennis Ellsworth, a Miami County native and executive editor of the St. Joseph News-Press, also will assist with the transition by acting as a liaison between the three newspapers and the support staff in St. Joseph.

Cribb & Associates is a newspaper brokerage firm with offices in Montana, Florida and Virginia.

Published September 03, 2004

Paola, KS