More than three dozen years ago I started my career with the E.W. Scripps Co. at the newspaper where the company’s logo and motto originated.
The lighthouse and “Give light and the people will find their own way” were the creations of
Carl Magee, the crusading journalist whose weekly Independent evolved into The Albuquerque Tribune. He used the logo and the motto on his column during the early days of New Mexico’s statehood.
Magee did great investigative work, helping break the Teapot Dome scandal, which sent Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to prison. When Scripps bought The Trib in 1923, E.W. liked the icons so much he put them on all of his newspapers.
Last week, the E.W. Scripps Co. announced a merger with Journal Communications Inc. The Scripps newspapers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be spun off into a new company called Journal Media Group. Meanwhile, the E.W. Scripps Co. will become a pure-play broadcaster, operating all the TV and radio stations.
The lighthouse will live on, but I, and my News Sentinel colleagues, will be bidding it farewell. I’m excited, though, about the future of the new company and the News Sentinel’s role in it.
Journal Media Group will be a very healthy corporation. It will have no debt or pension obligations — those stay with Scripps. Its revenue will be about half a billion dollars a year, and it will produce a very solid profit out of that.
“One of the benefits is having as much financial flexibility as one could hope for starting out as a new public company,” said Tim Stautberg, who will be president and CEO of Journal Media. Stautberg now runs Scripps’ newspaper division, so we are familiar with his leadership, which consistently focuses on the special role our newspapers play “in helping each community grow stronger and be a better place to live, work and play.”
Within that new company, the News Sentinel will be one of the most important properties. Over the past several years, we’ve been either first or second among Scripps newspapers in revenue and profit. We’ll be one of the big players in Journal Media.
We’ll have a new big sister, though. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is one of America’s great newspapers. It has won three Pulitzer Prizes since 2008, two for local investigative reporting. The new company will be headquartered in its market.
“In Milwaukee we have the flagship newspaper of the portfolio,” said Stautberg. “It made the most sense financially and I think spiritually to base this new company in Milwaukee.”
He is optimistic about the future of the business.
“We’re in a business that matters and will continue to matter,” he said. “What we’ll do in our newsrooms and what we will do with our sales professionals and the others throughout our buildings are special things, unique in each of our markets.”
The News Sentinel has had a long relationship with Knoxville, dating back to the founding of the Sentinel in 1886. Scripps launched the Knoxville News in 1921, and the two papers merged in 1926.
The News Sentinel will fulfill its mission of giving light in Knoxville for years to come — even if the lighthouse logo is gone.