Change can be scary, but in this case, it doesn’t have to be.
I woke up Wednesday morning to the same news as everybody else: The Juneau Empire has a new owner in GateHouse Media.
There’s a lot of differences between GateHouse and our soon-to-be former owners, Morris Communications Co. GateHouse is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange; Morris Communications is a private company. GateHouse is owned by stakeholders in the company; Morris Communications is owned by William S. “Billy” Morris III.
The biggest thing of note, however, is what is not different; it is what is the same. And that’s commitment to community journalism, and a promise to protect the Empire’s tradition of local news produced by local people for local readers.
After meeting with GateHouse’s Western Division’s Chief Financial Officer today in Juneau, my overall impression of the change is positive. I am relieved to report that the autonomy of the Juneau Empire newsroom will remain strong. No one will be coming in from Outside, telling us what stories to cover, or dictating what appears in our newspaper’s pages. No one from Outside will be presuming to know Juneau and what news matters to our community and our readers. In fact, GateHouse’s business model of actively acquiring community newspapers — they own over 550 publications – practically requires their properties maintain local control.
For readers, that means you won’t notice a change in your daily Juneau Empire in terms of news coverage, editorial content and direction, and anything else of the sort. The newspaper will still arrive at your doorstep. It will still bear our masthead. It will still be produced by us.
For us at the office, it’s still largely business as usual. There are no immediate job losses, planned lay-offs, or any such changes on the horizon. It’s no secret the newspaper industry as a whole has declined in the past few decades, but the century-old Empire has adjusted with the times and weathered the storm. That means that we are actually in a good place now, and more secure than one might think. Other newspapers may not be able to say the same.
I can’t guarantee there won’t be changes in the future. We cannot stave off change forever, remaining frozen in the permafrost of time. The Empire may one day have a different look. It may have a different website. It may have different reporters, editor, general manager or publisher.
There’s only one day I fear, and that’s the day the presses stop. Today is not that day.
• Emily Russo Miller is editor of the Juneau Empire. Contact her at 523-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.