New owners believe community newspapers future of industry

CMI staff photo: Gabriel Monte Garry Ellis, left, and Gary Stevenson, new owners of the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and the Quay County Sun, met with newspaper employees on Thursday. The two business partners will assume ownership of all three newspapers today and say they forsee very minor changes to the papers’ operations.

CMI Staff

New owners Garry Ellis and Gary Stevenson say acquisition of the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun marks the end of a 2 1/2-year search “for just the right (media) property.”

The two are partners in Clovis Media Inc., which assumed ownership today of the three papers from Freedom Communications, the Irvine, Calif., that has owned Clovis since 1935 and Portales and Tucumcari since 1997.

Both men said a diverse economy and the progressive spirit they encountered in eastern New Mexico is part of what convinced them to buy the papers. Coupled with the excellent staff they found, Stevenson said there was no doubt but to buy the properties once Freedom offered them.

“This is the kind of community we like,” said Stevenson, who told employees Thursday afternoon he believed community newspapers such as CNJ, PNT and QC Sun are the future of newspapers. Stevenson and his wife, Sue, both of Sheridan, Wyo., with various partners, own 24 media properties — including six daily newspapers — in seven western and Midwestern states with a combined circulation of about 120,000.

Ellis, also of Sheridan, is a partner with the Stevensons in seven newspapers and shoppers, including a daily newspaper in Ironwood, Mich.

As part of the transition from Freedom to Clovis Media Inc., all full-time and part-time employees will retain their jobs at the same base pay.

The owners promised autonomy to the staffs of each newspaper and said they foresee minor changes.

Asked to elaborate, Stevenson said he would like to see more local news in each publication, with the PNT focused more on the Portales community and not be “sort of the little sister of Clovis.”

Stevenson also said the communities of each newspaper can expect the same “level of excellence they’ve come to enjoy with the wonderful staff we have here.”

“I think,” said Stevenson, “a good community newspaper reflects and leads a community in a positive way.”