The owners of the Daily Herald, which serves Chicago’s West and Northwest suburbs, are buying a dozen newspapers in southern Illinois.
The Herald has been owned by the Paddock family since 1872 and specializes in aggressive local coverage. The papers it’s buying—five dailies and seven weeklies—are owned by Gatehouse Media, a national chain.
“The southern Illinois area has been crying out for more attention. I think it’s about to get some in a pretty good way from this Daily Herald move,” said Madeleine Doubek, a former Herald editor who is now publisher of the digital media outlet Reboot Illinois.
“I’m always happy when someone buys a newspaper with the intention of doing something other than scooping out the marrow and selling what’s left,” said Eric Fidler, a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and faculty adviser to the university’s student-run paper, the Daily Egyptian.
The Herald reports that all staff at the downstate papers “are expected to be retained.”
Fidler says local papers in rural areas like Southern Illinois may represent a good business opportunity at a time when newspapers in bigger markets are struggling.
“This area has been behind the rest of the country in getting rid of print,” he said.
That’s in part because broadband access is not universal.
“People are on dial-up, or satellite, or it’s slow, or it’s creaky,” he said. “So, people do still get the paper.”
Fidler described the downstate papers’ coverage as “intensely local,” noting that a recent front-page story in the Benton Evening News concerned that city’s acquisition of a used fire truck.
The Herald’s publisher and CEO, Douglas Ray, could not be reached for comment, but the Herald quoted him as saying the company might buy more community papers in the future.
Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @danweissmann.