Burrough reaches deeper into Michigan’s ThumbBack to News

Newspapering had always been in Rick Burrough’s blood, but it wasn’t until this decade that he expanded his commercial printing empire in Michigan into newspaper ownership. With the recent purchase of Journal Register Co.’s seven weeklies and six shoppers in the “Thumb” region of Michigan, Burrough has taken a firm position on the future of community newspapers.

In many ways, his purchase of JRC’s Lapeer Group of newspapers was a return to his roots. The Lapeer County Press, one of the weeklies in the group, was where Burrough got his start in the newspaper business, working as a part-timer during high school.

Commercial printing, however, was the primary focus of Burrough’s career for many years before he became a newspaper owner, and was the genesis of his expanding company. After working for nine years with Webco Press in Lapeer, Michigan, Burrough jumped ship to work for its competitor, Davisburg-based Michigan Web Press, in 1990.

In 1998, he purchased the company from his partners. Today, Michigan Web Press is a round-the-clock operation and one of the major commercial printers in the state. Burrough has invested heavily in the company in recent years, purchasing his old employer, Webco Press, expanding an additional 10,000 square feet, and purchasing both a six-tower state-of-the-art Goss Magnum press as well as new insertion equipment.

With a successful commercial printing business in place, the foray into weekly newspaper ownership came next. Sensing a need for quality local journalism in the region, Burrough founded VIEW Newspapers in 2003 with the launch of the Lapeer Area View. Two more weeklies, the Grand Blanc View and Burton View, followed. After his acquisition in April 2008 of the Davison Index from the Sherman family, VIEW Newspapers reached 87,000 homes in the region.

The recent acquisition of JRC’s Lapeer area papers was a no-brainer for Burrough from a strategic perspective. The deal included a number of rural weeklies that helped him expand his footprint into neighboring counties to the north (see map below). Most importantly, however, was being able to acquire the Lapeer County Press, the primary print competitor in his core market. Today, Burrough’s newspaper division, owned by parent JAMS Media, reaches 255,000 readers each week across eight counties. Veteran newspaper executive Peter Neill has been tapped to run the group.

When asked about how his business has fared in the current difficult economic environment, Burrough admits that “it has been a challenge.” But he remains optimistic about the future. “I firmly believe the need for 100% community-focused newspapers will exist for years to come – especially in the rural markets.”