Jun 3, 2024 - News

Portland Tribune's ownership group sold to Mississippi company

Newspaper with insert

The Portland Tribune's fate now lies in the hands of Carpenter Media Group of Mississippi. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Local news heavyweight Pamplin Media Group has been sold to a Mississippi company as its aging owner looks to take a step back.

Why it matters: Pamplin Media's dozens of outlets include the Portland Tribune, a mainstay of the local media scene since 2001 that has struggled to make money as a digital product.

Driving the news: Pamplin Media, which bills itself as "Oregon's largest newspaper group," announced the sale to Carpenter Media Group on Monday.

  • Portland Tribute staff heard of the sale an hour before it was publicly announced, reporter Anna Del Savio told Axios.

What they're saying: "Due to age and health reasons, it made sense to pass the company on to someone else who will carry on the tradition of balanced journalism, the old-fashioned way," said Pamplin Media owner Robert Pamplin in a story that ran in several of his outlets.

The big picture: Local media outlets have struggled to survive online, faced with consolidation, asset-stripping by investors and the erosion of paying ad bases by free social media.

Zoom in: Founded in 1997, Mississippi-based Carpenter Media Group's strategy includes buying small local news outlets.

  • Some of Carpenter's 180 publications include L'Observateur in Laplace, Louisiana, the Poplarville Democrat in Picayune, Mississippi, and the Cordele Dispatch in Cordele, Georgia.
  • Carpenter chair Todd Carpenter has focused on acquisitions in the Northwest in the last 18 months, buying the Juneau Empire in Alaska and The Herald in Everett, Washington.

Details: Specifics of the deal weren't disclosed.

  • Pamplin Media Group did not return a request for comment. Carpenter Media Group referred Axios to a press release.

Catch up quick: Robert Pamplin, a Lake Oswego resident, is chair of R.B. Pamplin Corp., an enterprise whose interests range from industrial products to Civil War battlefields and museums.

  • He launched the Portland Tribune in 2001 as a twice-weekly free broadsheet to compete with The Oregonian. It cut home deliveries after a year and prints one edition a week now.
  • His Pamplin Media bought up long-established regional papers such as the Forest Grove News-Times, which dates to 1886. It also consolidated operations, such as accounting, design and copy editing, to save money.

The latest: Carpenter CEO Tim Prince pledged to stick with community journalism.

  • "We take the responsibility of continuing their work seriously and will strive to uphold the high standards [Pamplin] has set for all of us in the industry," Prince said in a media release.

Between the lines: John Schrag, the executive editor of Pamplin Media from 2016-2023, told Axios he's hopeful Carpenter Media will continue to offer trusted, local journalism, which he says it is already doing at their over 40 Washington papers.

  • "People tell us they don't like the media, but they like their local paper because they see the reporter at the football game and at the grocery store," Schrag said.

Editor's note: Joseph Gallivan is a former employee of Pamplin Media Group.

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