There’s something afoot in the newspaper landscape of New Mexico — a change few of us in the business anticipated amidst the corporate acquisitions, downsizing, consolidations and newsroom layoffs.
Yet, several small, locally owned newspapers here in the Land of Enchantment are finding new life, due in part to journalists and others committed to keeping local journalism alive.
Daniel Russell, publisher of the Hobbs News-Sun, this year bought the newspaper from Lake Charles, Louisiana-based Shearman Media, which had owned the News-Sun for decades. Russell and his wife brought in partners Wade Cavitt and Mark Veteto in June, and kept all of the newspaper’s 28 employees.
“As a group, we just felt it was important to keep the newspaper locally owned and locally operated,” said Russell, who’s worked at the newspaper since 1995 as everything from reporter to advertising director to publisher. “I think the News-Sun plays a valuable role in that we understand the local economy, our local culture and history, and what’s important to people.”
Others have single-handedly kept newspapers in business.
Silver City native Nickolas Seibel in 2014 rescued the Silver City Daily Press the day before it was set to shut down. Seibel’s company, Silver City Independent Publishing Co., recently also acquired the Deming Headlight, also to keep it in business. Seibel is president of the New Mexico Press Association, another sign of his dedication to the role of local journalism.
Closer to Albuquerque, the Edgewood Independent is getting new life. It was on its last legs, unable to publish for several months this year while editor and former owner Leota Harriman was out due to illness. One prolonged illness can bring down many mom-and-pop papers.
After recovering, Harriman wanted to focus more on local journalism and less on the business side, so she reached out to Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, who took out a loan to buy the paper and avoid an “emergency” closure.
“We sort of set off on this plan to find a way to avoid closure and give them a rescue lifeline a little bit,” Davis said.
The Independent will start printing under its new ownership in January. Harriman, who’s held almost every job in the newsroom in the past two decades, will remain editor, and Davis has made an employment offer to the newspaper’s other paid employee — its sports editor.
“There’s a ridiculous amount of news in Edgewood,” Harriman said. “… You know it comes down to not wanting to have a news desert out here.”
The purchase of the Independent was Davis’ third newspaper buy this year. He and his publishing company, CTRL+P, bought the Sandoval Signpost in Placitas in October and the Corrales Comment in June after Corrales journalistic icon Jeff Radford retired after 40 years. The Signpost’s news editor stayed on as editor and chief reporter to cover Placitas and South Sandoval County, and the Comment kept all three of its key staffers and continues to be published under its slogan, “Reporting As If Democracy Matters. Since 1982.” In 2020, Davis co-founded The Paper as a replacement for the Albuquerque-based Weekly Alibi, which went under earlier in 2020, and hired many of the Alibi’s employees.
New Mexico is lucky to have a far greater share of independent, locally owned news organizations than other states — among them yours truly, the Albuquerque Journal, The Santa Fe New Mexican and Taos News, the Roswell Daily Record, the Rio Grande Sun, the Guadalupe County Communicator bought by veteran newspaperman Tom McDonald in December 2017, The Gallup Independent, the Gallup Sun, and others.
There is no doubt that the news provided by many of these publications will increasingly be delivered digitally.
But it’s imperative New Mexicans have access to news about those city council, county commission and school board meetings that take place every week in every part of New Mexico.
And those individuals who have stepped up to make that happen deserve our thanks.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.