U-T Community Press group buys La Jolla Light

From La Jolla Light and U-T reports

U-T San Diego

affiliate U-T Community News, LLC, bought MainStreet Communications’ eight San Diego-area community newspapers and their websites, it was announced Friday, Nov. 1. The transaction included acquisition of 

La Jolla Light, Del Mar Times, Poway News Chieftain, Rancho Bernardo News Journal, Solana Beach Sun, Carmel Valley News, Rancho Santa Fe Review

and

Ramona Sentinel

.

The

U-T

created a new division, U-T Community Press, to operate the papers. Phyllis Pfeiffer, current group publisher of MainStreet Communications’ San Diego publications, will continue to lead the collection as vice president and general manager of U-T Community Press.

The acquisition is part of an overall strategy to better serve the San Diego community through publishing hyper- local news that complements the more regional reporting of the flagship newspaper,

U-T San Diego

.

photo
Douglas Manchester

“Acquisition of the

La Jolla Light

is particularly special to me. As a long-time resident of La Jolla and having raised my family here, it is especially rewarding to welcome the

Light

into the

U-T San Diego

organization,” said

U-T San Diego

Publisher Douglas Manchester.

“We are thrilled to be taking on the stewardship of these community newspapers,” Manchester said. “We believe that community news is one of the hallmarks of strong local newspapers, and we intend to continue this legacy for many years to come. With these papers as a template, our strategy will be to launch additional community papers in San Diego’s larger communities and neighborhoods.

U-T San Diego

CEO John Lynch described a vision of weekly publications across the county, stretching from Chula Vista to Coronado to Vista. The community newspapers will operate with separate staffs supported by the

U-T San Diego

newsroom.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Lynch said the

U-T

can help the recently acquired papers grow by backing them with infrastructure such as IT support, ad services and delivery efficiencies that would be expensive for the papers individually.

“I think that so many of these newspapers, if they stand on their own, are going to have a tough time existing three, four, five years from now,” Lynch said. “This gives us such a strong base of operations here in San Diego, we’re going to have a very strong company for years to come.”

Pfeiffer agreed, adding, “With the resources of

U-T San Diego

ownership, we believe we can be more effective than ever in serving our local communities. We look forward to expanding our reach and building upon our brand of news.”

Advertising in the community publications is expected to be offered by

U-T San Diego

as part of its integrated media portfolio.

photo
John Lynch

Alan Mutter, a media consultant and teacher at the University of California, Berkeley, said the move allows the

U-T

to reach the sweet spot in the industry:

publishing news and advertising that is targeted at highly concentrated local communities. The trick will be for each weekly to remain authentic, he said, noting that readers must see that it is still covering the community and not simply piping in news from wire news services.

Pfeiffer said the

La Jolla Light

(which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year) returns to local ownership for the first time since 1972, when the McKinnon family sold the

Light

to Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc.

The

U-T

isn’t the only major metropolitan newspaper to own weeklies in its home region. The

Orange County Register

operates 23 community newspapers.

MainStreet Communications, LLC formed in 2009 when the ownership of the

La Jolla Light, Del Mar Times

and

Solana Beach Sun

merged with the group that owned the

Rancho Santa Fe Review

and

Carmel Valley News

  1. MainStreet was owned by two private equity firms — The Brookside Group, of Greenwich, Conn., and Housatonic Partners of San Francisco.

Lynch said community papers such as the

La Jolla Light

and

Rancho Santa Fe Review

are largely supported by real estate ads and businesses that need to reach only one or two ZIP codes. He said the U-T is considering adding an automotive section to each of the papers for more advertising opportunities. The eight weekly newspapers have a total circulation of 99,431 copies.

The MainStreet Communications purchase is the second acquisition of a local news organization since

U-T

Publisher Manchester acquired

The San Diego Union- Tribune

in November 2011. In October 2012, the

U-T

purchased the

North County Times

from Lee Enterprises for $11.95 million. That paper has since been integrated into the

U-T

  1. But Lynch said the eight MainStreet newspapers would remain independently operated.
   
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