For the first time in 80 years, the Paris Beacon-News will have new ownership.
Sale of the Paris Beacon-News to Edgar County Newspapers, Inc. will be effective Saturday, July 1, according to John Cribb, of Cribb, Greene & Associates, who represented the seller in the transaction.
The newspaper will continue to publish as a six-day afternoon daily serving the Edgar-Clark county region of east-central Illinois.
The sale was announced today by publisher E. H. “Ned” Jenison on behalf of the Jenison family. The newspaper will become a member of the PTS, Inc. publishing family of small daily and large weekly newspapers located in midwest and western states.
The Phillip Smith family of Fort Payne, Ala., a fourth-generation newspaper family, owns PTS, Inc. newspapers. In the midwest, the closest to Paris are the Crawfordsville, Ind., Journal-Review, and the Perry County Republic-Monitor at Perryville, Mo., south of St. Louis.
Kevin Cothron has been named the new publisher for the Beacon-News. Cothron is a veteran in the newspaper business in Indiana with both the Indianapolis Star and the Crawfordsville Journal-Review, where he has most recently served as circulation director. Cothron is acquiring a new home in Paris and plans to move his wife, son and daughter here later this summer.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue a strong, respected community newspaper serving an excellent community,” he said. With the exception of the Jenison family, the present newspaper staff all will continue in place, joined by Cothron.
However the appearance of the newspaper may change slightly over the next weeks. The new ownership plans some extensive renovation of the Beacon-News offices at 218 North Main St., home of the newspaper since the 1880s.
During this period, temporary offices and the news departments will be located in the former Kreckman and Anderson Law Offices building at 908 North Main St., starting this Saturday. The Anderson Law Office is also moving this weekend to its new home at 1204 North Main Street.
During the renovation period, the Beacon-News will be printed on the presses of the Crawfordsville Journal-Review, and returned to Paris for distribution. All business, advertising and news operations will remain in Paris at the temporary offices, Cothron stated.
Because of production schedules, some deadlines for news and advertising materials must be advanced at this time. Regular office hours will be maintained at the 908 North Main Street location, and the telephone number, 465-6424, will remain in service.
Once the building renovations at 218 North Main are completed, all departments will return to the familiar green glass front building just north of the square.
Negotiations for the change in ownership have extended over the past six months.
“Obviously, the decision to sell the publication was difficult to reach,” Jenison observed, “but the primary objective was assurance that the Beacon-News would continue to be a community-oriented newspaper serving and supporting the best interests of Paris and the east-central Illinois area.”
The operation of small, independent daily newspapers has continued to become more challenging in recent years as a shrinking retail advertising market combined with rising costs of production and distribution squeeze the business, he noted.
“This is not dissimilar to other family-owned businesses in Paris in recent years as the economy changes,” he added. “We were fortunate to obtain the interest of Phillip Smith whose family has had four generations of experience in owning and publishing smaller daily and weekly newspapers, all individually managed with a dedication to their own communities.”
“It seemed an excellent ‘fit’ with the community publishing philosophy the Jenison family has strived to achieve, also over four generations,” Jenison continued.
“On behalf of myself, son Kevin who has been our general manager, and sons Jim and Stephen, we are confident the Beacon-News will continue to serve and support the community, thrive with it, and become an even more useful and significant publication in the future. Really the only difference will be as a Smith family enterprise, rather than the Jenison family,” Jenison said.
The newspaper was founded in Paris in 1848 by Jacob Harding as the weekly “Prairie Beacon” when the village of Paris itself was just 25 years old.
It grew with the community, becoming a daily edition in the 1880s. In the era of multiple papers in the city – Paris still had four papers publishing in the 1920s – the Beacon was known as the newspaper favoring Republican politics since the founding of the Republican Party. Ernest M. Jenison, editor and co-publisher of the Fond du Lac (Wisc.) Commonwealth, purchased the Paris Beacon in 1926 after the Commonwealth was sold to a competing publisher.
A year later he purchased the morning Paris Daily News to form the Beacon-News. It continued under the direction of his son Edward H. Jenison and daughter Ernestine Jenison from 1938 until their deaths in the mid 1990s, and has been published since by the Jenison Family Trust of E. H. “Ned” Jenison and sons Kevin, James and Stephen.
Jenison said he will be available to assist with the transition period in whatever capacity desired by the new ownership. He also plans to continue his other community interests, among them as chairman of the hospital board of trustees, member of PEDCO and Main Street boards, city plan commission chairman, and other local organizations.
Cribb, Greene & Associates, of Bozeman, Mont., represented the Jenisons in the sale.