NORTON, VA.—The Norton Press, Inc., owner of three community newspapers in Southwest Virginia, was purchased by American Hometown, Media, Inc., Nashville, TN. The sale was completed on November 30, 2005 and announced by Jenay and Michael Tate, third generation owners.
The sale included: the Coalfield Progress, a twice weekly in its 95th year with paid circulation of 7,330, located in Norton and serving Wise County, VA; The Post, a 4,126 paid circulation 115-year-old weekly serving the towns of Appalachia and Big Stone Gap, also in Wise County; and The Dickenson Star, a 23-year-old county seat 5,880 paid circulation weekly serving Dickenson County and the towns of Clintwood, Haysi and Clinchco. Also included as part of the sale was the company’s central printing plant in Norton.
The company has been in continual family ownership for 85 years. Jenay and Michael’s grandfather, Pres Atkins, bought the company in 1920 and gave the Coalfield Progress its current name. He brought a reputation of being a tough newspaperman to the coalfields of southwest Virginia.
In 1945, Caroll N. Tate returned from World War II to join Atkins, his stepfather, at the newspaper. Tate’s strengths lay in the fields of advertising, business and sports writing. He took the reins of these financially strapped portions of the company and began to create a prosperous business, becoming editor and publisher of the paper upon Atkins death in 1965. Shortly after becoming publisher, Tate purchased The Post and Wise Printing Co. in Big Stone Gap. Tate’s wife, Robbie, joined the Coalfield Progress in 1972, and in 1974, became the Director of Advertising.
In 1979, daughter Jenay Tate joined the company out of college, first as an assistant to her father, and then as a reporter for the Coalfield Progress. One year later, the paper increased its publication frequency to bi-weekly, publishing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The early 90s saw many changes within The Norton Press, Inc. With Carroll Tate’s health failing, Robbie Tate was named Publisher, and led the company through another period of growth, expanding the company’s holdings by two publications. The Dickenson Star, purchased in 1990, and The Cumberland Times, purchased a few years later. Both newspapers were subsequently merged.
In 1990, Michael Tate was named the manager of The Dickenson Star. In 1997, Carroll Tate died after suffering a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. One year later, Jenay and Michael Tate collaborated to buy The Norton Press, Inc., when Robbie and sister, Carol Tate, decided to sell their interest in the company.
The publications are considered to be among the strongest editorial products for newspapers of their size in Virginia.
Dan Hammond, American Hometown Publishing’s President and CEO, was on hand for the sale announcement and told employees that American would continue to publish high quality newspapers in the communities it serves.
“We believe in community journalism and we believe in these newspapers and in the future of these communities,” Hammond said.
Jenay Tate will remain as publisher of the company, echoed Hammond’s comments. “This is a good thing for our employees and our communities,” she said. Michael Tate will assist the new owners during the ownership transition.
Cribb & Associates in Charlottesville, VA, represented the Tates in the sale of the newspapers.