Local Media Among Non-Profit Trend

By Jon LeSage

Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal are part of a major shift in U.S. newspapers in recent years – converting over to non-profit organizations (NPOs). The Dec. 7 announcement by the newspapers and previous owner Pacific6, and its Pacific Community Media unit, is part of a historic shift in U.S. newspapers and other media outlets. It’s not the only shift being seen in news media.

Long Beach has also witnessed two other major media trends since the 1990s – mergers and acquisitions at Long Beach Press-Telegram and new ownership of a community newspaper in 2000 at Beachcomber. Nonprofit organizations taking newspaper ownership is a more recent trend across the country.

The new owner is the not-for-profit independent Long Beach Journalism Initiative, under the helm of Melissa Evans as chief executive officer who also serves as CEO of the two newspapers. She’d been serving as executive editor of LB Post.

Pacific6 sees the move as an intentional separation that “ensures the Initiative will chart its course independently, guided solely by its commitment to journalistic integrity,” as it said in a press release.

“Empowering local journalism is paramount and we are proud to have supported the LB Post and Business Journal these past five years. We wish Melissa and the entire Long Beach Journalism Initiative team great success as they fulfill a critical public service for our city,” said John Molina, CEO of Pacific6 and Pacific Community Media.

Molina acquired LB Post in 2018 through his Pacific6 Enterprises, paying an undisclosed amount to Cindy Allen, owner of the LB Post as well as ETA Agency, a Long Beach-based advertising firm. The newspaper has been published online since 2007. Business Journal was acquired in February 2020 by Pacific Community Media from George Economides, who founded that publication in 1987.

In September, the two newspapers launched a new membership program offering full access to paying members and limited access to other readers. Other perks include premium-authored newsletters, merchandise discounts, invitations to events, and chances to meet and talk with reporters. It ties into subscription services that have become popular through TV streaming channels Netflix and Hulu. Members can tap into the time-intensive, quality work based on the best in journalism – being aware and well-informed on what’s going on in the city, tracking elected officials and making them more accountable, and telling the stories of local residents who might otherwise be ignored, according to the LB Post.

It’s Not the Only Media Trend

Between late 2019 and May 2022, more than 360 newspapers closed their doors, according to a study by Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative. The study forecasted that a third of newspapers would be gone by 2025. The study was reported in the LB Post as part of its introduction of the membership program.

Mergers and acquisitions within major newspaper chains like McClatchy and Gannett have been in the works since the 1990s. The Long Beach Press-Telegram, which started up in 1897, experienced a series of ownership changes over a century and a quarter. The newspaper was sold by Knight-Ridder in 1997 and became part of an umbrella organization of local newspapers forged by NewsMedia Group that was named the Southern California News Group. About 10 years ago, a hedge fund bought the newspaper and cut the staff down substantially. Well-known columnist Tim Grobaty left the newspaper in 2018 and joined up with the LB Post along with colleagues such as Evans.

Community newspapers Grunion Gazette and Downtown Gazette were acquired by MediaNews Group in 2004, with only the Grunion Gazette still being published. It’s a section of the Press-Telegram and it’s also published as a paper edition.

In July 2000 Beeler & Associates (B&A) acquired the Beachcomber, a bi-weekly tabloid distributed to 33,000 homes and businesses in Long Beach and surrounding communities. Readers also pick up copies at restaurants and other businesses around town, and they can access the website for breaking news.

Since 1978, B&A has developed a network of independent professionals offering services in all areas of marketing communications. Jay Beeler, owner of B&A and publisher of Beachcomber, represents a group of business professionals who’ve led another American news publishing trend – buyouts of established, respected community newspapers to keep the publications going. They’re considered to be a part of keeping the city government accountable, and to support local businesses as a significant part of the city’s livelihood.

They’re great channels for promoting local businesses, community organizations, and events; tapping into the city’s history and lessons learned; recommending ways to have fun in Long Beach and the local area.

Competitor newspapers have done their share of that type of coverage, too. Who isn’t looking for fun in Long Beach – and aren’t we all looking for good tips on how to access these events, find good deals and delicious meals, and to support the best parts of the city?

The Long Beach Journalism Initiative officially took over the LB Post and Business Journal on Dec. 1. The initial Board of Directors is made up by Chair Matt Kinley, a local attorney, Treasurer Dora Jacildo, executive director of Child Lane; and Secretary Gwen Shaffer, a journalism professor at Cal State Long Beach.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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