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For the first time in 18 years, the weekly newspaper serving Bath and Highland counties has changed hands.

The Recorder has been sold by Lea Campbell of Warm Springs to its long-time general manager, Anne Adams of Monterey, according to Gary Greene of Cribb, Greene and Associates, who represented the seller in the transaction.

Adams will be the 10th publisher/owner in the newspaper’s 130-year history.

“Perhaps the most important decision an independent publisher can make comes at the end of his career, when he is in a position to determine who will carry on with what he has tried to accomplish in the years of his stewardship of the newspaper,” Campbell said of the change in leadership. “In this case, I may have saved my best for last.”

“Anne is absolutely committed to the well-being of Bath and Highland counties and she will do her level best to see that her readers are fully informed of the challenges they will be facing in coming years. She will take strong editorial positions, as any good publisher must, but The Recorder will remain an open forum for all persuasions, and will strive to be as balanced and objective as possible in its reporting. I am extremely pleased that she and her family have chosen to take on a post so difficult and so important.”

Adams began her career with The Recorder in 1990 as an advertising sales representative, and has worked in nearly every position at the newspaper. She has been its general manager for the last 10 years. She is a 1990 bachelor of fine arts graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans. She and her husband, Byron, live in Monterey with their children, Ian, 8, Logan, 7, Hannah, 6, Morgan, 5, and Evan, 6 months. She is the daughter of Nancy Witschey of Blue Grass and Walter and Joan Witschey of Richmond.

Adams has won several Virginia Press Association awards in editorial writing, feature and general news reporting, investigative and in-depth reporting, and illustration.

“Byron and I have lived in Bath or Highland 20 years, and continuing the solid journalism the Campbells have established at one of the state’s best weekly newspapers is an honor and a privilege,” Adams said this week.

The sale was accomplished by favorable financing provided by the Campbells, support from First and Citizens Bank and Blue Grass Valley Bank, and assisted by five local citizens, Sarah and Bruce McWilliams, Betsy and Chris Little, and Ken McGraw.

“I could not have done this without the Campbell’s support, and the residents of Bath and Highland who have so graciously made it possible for me to fulfill this long-term goal,” Adams said.

The Adams’ corporation, Snowy Mountain Publishing, completed the purchase last Thursday.

“Lea and Claudia have been devoted to maintaining the quality of life in this area through their stewardship of the newspaper, and have gone to great lengths to see that legacy continued under my ownership,” Adams said. “Bath and Highland have been well-served under Lea’s commitment and it’s my hope he will maintain a long relationship with The Recorder.”

Of his future role with The Recorder, Campbell said, “One of the worst things the ex-publisher can do to the new publisher is try to influence her newspaper after the sale. I will do all I can to resist that temptation.”

While all readers are encouraged to offer advice and input, none of those involved in assisting in her purchase, including Campbell, will have editorial control, Adams said.

“Anne is highly skilled and doesn’t need my help, but I will be glad to offer her my advice any time she might seek it,” Campbell said. “I may be encouraged to keep my hand in on the opinion pages from time to time, but I have been assured of the continued independence of the newspaper’s ownership, and none of us will have any say in day-to-day operations, or influence over news coverage decisions or editorial positions.”

“Claudia and I are fully immersed now in our own project related to making our farm into an equestrian-based business. Beyond that, we hope to spend a lot of time following the exploits and interests of our children now that we are not tied to a newspaper’s unrelenting deadlines.”

Adams says she has a long list of goals for the newspaper to increase its profile in the community, and push for increased dialogue among leaders and residents of Bath and Highland. In addition, she hopes to broaden its offerings, particularly through its web site, and provide more options for readers and advertisers who depend on The Recorder as a resource.

“Lea has taught me everything important about what a weekly newspaper should be. I do not come to this new role with his broad experience, but I feel well-qualified to take on the enormous responsibilities ahead. My confidence is bolstered, too, because The Recorder has always had a skilled and dedicated staff of professionals on board who have taught me a lot about teamwork, respect, and perseverance.”

While Adams has been learning the craft, she has also been teaching it. She now serves as a veteran instructor in VPA professional development, teaching journalism courses ranging from editing to ethics and Freedom of Information requirements. In addition, she has become networked with other Appalachian weeklies through the Institute for Rural Journalism based in Lexington, Ky.

“Lea has always been driven by the belief that a newspaper’s effectiveness with its readership is greater when the scale is smaller, and that personal ownership presents the ultimate commitment to the business,” Adams said. “By making it possible for us to purchase the paper, Lea again has put the community he loves first. Journalism is a tough way to make a living, but my husband and I agree there’s no better place to raise our children, and this is one way we can do our part to make sure that remains true for generations of Bath and Highland residents to come.”

Campbell, 65, purchased the newspaper in December of 1988. He will retire after a 40-year career in journalism, the bulk of which has been spent in Virginia in a variety of news and management positions ranging from sports writing for the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star to managing editor of the Charlottesville Daily Progress, executive editor and vice president of New River Newspapers, publisher of the Chapel Hill Newspaper in North Carolina and chief operating officer of Family Community Newspapers.

Campbell was also with Ottaway Newspapers Inc. for nine years in several news and general management positions. His last assignment with Ottaway was as publisher of the Chapel Hill Newspaper. He left Chapel Hill several months after purchasing The Recorder.

He has won a number of news awards in various press associations and the National Newspaper Association. He served eight years as co-chair of Virginia Press Association’s news committee and is a fifth-term member of the VPA board of directors, now serving as vice president of the association.

The Recorder was established in 1877. In the last decade, among many other awards, the newspaper has been honored five times with the state’s top award for newspapers with a circulation under 30,000, for community service and journalistic integrity. It is a member of both the Virginia Press Association and the National Newspaper Association.

Cribb, Greene & Associates is an eighty-four year old newspaper brokerage company with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia and Bozeman, Montana.

Published March 23, 2007

Monterey, VA