By Paul Rhodes, Editor and Publisher
This month, a really big anniversary for me and this newspaper group is passing with all the explosive excitement of a pin dropping to the floor.
It was early October of 1992 when Times-Sentinel Newspapers arrived on the scene in western Sedgwick County and took over three small, struggling community newspapers based in Cheney, Clearwater and Goddard. And for the past 30 years, I’ve watched this child of mine grow and blossom into the newspaper operation it is today.
In truth, this moment in time that I’m marking today simply recognizes the fact that people, when they set their minds to it, can do anything. When this newspaper group got its start 30 years ago, there was no established business operation marching to the rescue – it was just two people who thought that community journalism was far from extinction.
Little did we know how much work it takes to keep anything – and especially a newspaper – alive and well.
That duo was myself and my ex-wife Amy Crouch. I had been a working journalist for more than a decade when we moved back to Kansas so that I could pursue this crazy dream of running a community newspaper operation, and Amy was there by my side for several years.
Within a few months, it was clear that this effort of ours wasn’t going to last another 30 days – let alone 30 years. After a long night of sitting at the office, going over the books and crying over the handwriting on the wall, we faced a watershed moment: either fold up our tent, or fold three small community newspapers into one larger regional newspaper.
Quickly, we surveyed our readers, who almost without exception said that a combined newspaper was way better than no newspapers at all. And that, my friends, was how Times-Sentinel Newspapers got its real lease on life.
Soon, our successes started outweighing our failures, which I believe is the real measure of business acumen in today’s world. We acquired the WestSide Story, a successful monthly newspaper in Wichita, grew our advertising and readership bases, and added talented people to our staff. We survived 9/11, and later I survived Amy’s decision to take a different direction in both her personal and business lives.
After I was on my own with the newspaper group, opportunities just seemed to present themselves, and we acquired three other newspapers – the Conway Springs Star and Argonia Argosy, the East Wichita News, and the Haysville Sun-Times. I also was lucky enough to find a talented partner to help run the business in Travis Mounts, who is poised to take on an even bigger role as I now look ahead to retirement.
But once again, no one’s celebrating…just yet.
Yes, I’ve been dipping my toes into semi-retirement for the past year, but I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. And yes, I’ll retire one of these years, but only when Travis and I are both ready for me to get the heck out of here…for everyone’s sake.
All kidding aside, the transition of ownership of a business like Times-Sentinel Newspapers doesn’t just happen because a willing seller meets a willing buyer. My life and my role here at the business are intertwined like a beanpole that grew out of magic seeds, and some of that intertwining will take time to unravel.
In the meantime, Travis and I will “celebrate” this big anniversary as we start the new year – year 31, to be exact. We’re hoping to produce a special section looking back on 30 years of newspapering in our coverage area, and the history of our operation in and around these communities.
And then, folks, we’ll make some noise. It will be time to do some celebrating…