12-31-08 | Printable Version

Turner Keeps His Focus on Rural Newspapers

For an old news guy, Jerry Turner has done OK on the business side. Since leaving the relative comfort of the editor's chair in the mid-1990s, Turner has bought and sold 18 newspapers, with a strong focus on small market newspapers in the Southeast and Midwest.

During 2008 he bought two small daily newspapers in Kansas to supplement his non-dailies in Mississippi, Florida and Illinois. His current holdings also include two trade magazines and a television station in Miami, Oklahoma where he makes his home.

Despite the difficult economic climate in 2008, Turner says he has increased ad revenue at his two new dailies with stronger sales pressure in the markets. And he remains very bullish on small-town newspapering.

“Smaller community newspapers are going to continue to do well as long as they control the content,” says Turner, 47. “I’d like to find more newspapers that fit the profile of isolated, rural markets that are not appealing to the larger operators.”

Turner got his start in the business in 1981, taking a news job at a Texas newspaper group owned and operated by Jim Chionsini and Albert Thompson. He then took a job in 1989 as editor of the Andalusia (AL) Star-News, owned by Boone Newspapers. He was soon promoted to publisher of Boone’s newspaper in Demopolis, Alabama, and was named publisher of Boone’s Miami (OK) News-Record in 1990.

In 1996 Turner made his first acquisition of a weekly and shopper in Rainsville, Alabama, then proceeded to buy out the competition as well. He sold the combined operation within two years, and his career in newspaper deals was launched.

Turner gained his experience in organizations with strong ties to Carmage Walls, who built a significant publishing group based in the Southeast and helped to start the careers of a number of major newspaper owners.

Like Walls, Turner has different ownership groups for his media properties, all of which he manages through his company Family Media. Chionsini and Thompson remain investors in some of his operations.

To complete his 2008 acquisition of the 5,000-circulation Parsons (KS) Sun and 3,800-circulation Chanute (KS) Tribune, Turner brought in private equity investors. Since taking over early in the year, Turner says revenue has increased by about 14%. “It’s just taking things that were instilled in me by Jim Boone and others: The more doors you knock on, the more sales you will make.”