Rick Outzen, publisher of Pensacola’s Independent News, announced that he has signed a letter of intent to purchase the city’s daily newspaper. The Independent News reports that the deal is expected to close by June 1. Terms were not disclosed.
“I finally finished paying off my credit card bills from Hurricane Ivan,” said Outzen in press conference in front of the Pelican statute on Romana Street. “What the heck, how hard can it be?”
The News Journal is owned by Gannett Co., a national media holding company that owns newspapers such as USA Today. It has been around since 1889 when Earle Bowden started as paper deliver boy and worked his way up to sports editor, then news editor, editorial page editor and eventually executive editor.
On July 1, 1969, Perry Publications sold the two papers, Pensacola News and Pensacola Journal, to Gannett Co. for $15.5 million. The papers were later combined to form the Pensacola News Journal.
Over the years, the daily newspaper has made several changes to make the profit margins established by Gannett: shutting down the print press, employee unpaid furloughs and asking employees to bring their own toilet tissue to work.
Revenue streams have been diversified to include the websites GoPensacola.com and DealChicken.com, several other publications, such as Bella Magazine and Home & Garden, and a chain of roadside boiled peanut stands in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Public Reaction Mixed
Most Pensacolians didn’t realize that Pensacola still had a daily newspaper.
“When they stopped selling them in the middle of Davis Highway at the intersections, I thought they had shut down,” said Amos Reedless, an assistant greeter at the Wal-Mart on Mobile Highway. “I missed watching them dance when we ran red lights.”
Scott Meanie was excited to see the Independent News gobble up the daily. “My parakeet prepares to have IN in his cage,” Meanie told the IN.
Two people who aren’t happy and have threatened to fight the sale are Mayor Ashton Hayward and Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas.
“It’s the end of my world,” mumbled Thomas when he was cornered leaving the district headquarters on Pace Boulevard.
Derek Cosson, the mayor’s spokesman, would only say, “Our job just got harder. We may have to start our own paper.”
Mayor Ashton Hayward had a viewpoint published with his name and smiling photo denouncing the sale.
“Perception has been reality in my administration since Day One,” someone wrote for Hayward. “Now I’m screwed. It might be time to buy those bollards.”
What To Expect
Outzen refused to say how much he paid for the News Journal, but assured that no BP gift cards were used. However, he talked about his plans for the paper.
“We will expand the news coverage,” said the IN publisher. “We will assign reporters to all the government agencies. The Sunday editions will be must-read editions.”
He added, “We will keep Bella and GoPensacola, replace the Weekender with INweekly and jettison the DealChicken. Everything will be bigger, more creative and without any worry about who we upset.”
The newspaper will continue to support local events, such as Mayor Hayward’s upcoming telethon to cover the city’s bills and WEAR TV beauty pageants to hire new anchors.
Will Outzen and his staff make it work? Can they make money?
“Heck, if I know,” Outzen replied.