Ex-Publisher’s Nonprofit Buys Alaska Newspapers

     FAIRBANKS, Alaska (CN) The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Kodiak Daily Mirror are being sold to a foundation created by the late wife of the newspaper’s former publisher, Charles W. Snedden.
     Founded in 1903 as The Fairbanks News, the paper merged with The Tanana Minor in 1909.
     The Sneddens owned the newspaper from 1950 to 1992. During the paper’s heyday it played a major role in advocating for Alaska statehood.
     William Dean Singleton, the newspaper’s current owner, made the announcement on Tuesday. While employees were told of the pending sale the day before they have known the papers were for sale since a letter from Singleton to all staff this past June.
     “As you know, my longtime partner and friend, Dick Scudder, died in 2012 and I retired in 2013. Dick and I were friends for 35 years and partners for more than 30,” Singleton wrote in the June 12 letter.
     “We both loved newspapers, and we also believed that newspapers belong to their communities and readers, not just to their owners of record,” Singleton’s correspondence stated. “After discussions with my and Dick’s family members, the Singletons and the Scudders have decided to seek new, more involved owners.”
     At the time they anticipated the search process would take several months. Singleton informed staff in the letter that “despite well-documented issues facing traditional media, including newspapers, both our newspapers are profitable and healthy.” He also assured staff that “if we don’t find the right buyer, we will continue to own the newspapers.”
     In 2003, Snedden’s wife Helen created and fully endowed the C. W. Snedden Chair in Journalism at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Two foundations were formed after the 2012 death of Helen – the Snedden Family Foundation and the Helen E. Snedden Foundation.
     The mission of the latter and larger foundation that will purchase the paper is to “enhance the quality of life in Alaska,” foundation trustee Virginia Farmier told the News-Miner.
     “By owning the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the foundation will further that mission, allowing the newspapers to continue to communicate, educate and inform the citizens of these communities with excellent local news coverage,” Farmier told the Fairbanks paper.
     The only changes announced for the papers at this stage is that nonprofit ownership will mean that they cannot endorse candidates for public office, and editorial pages must show greater balance.
     “I think we found the perfect owner,” Singleton told the staff. “It is gratifying to our families that the Snedden legacy will continue to inform and educate the people these newspapers serve.”
     Singleton and Scudder founded Denver-based MediaNews Group in 1983, ultimately becoming the second-largest newspaper company in the United States. After retirement Singleton retained ownership in the News-Miner through family trusts.
     The News-Miner owns the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Kodiak, known as the “Emerald Isle,” is an island with a population around 14,000 located just off the south-central coast of Alaska.

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