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Alaska’s largest daily newspaper sold

Posted: April 9, 2014 - 11:04am

ANCHORAGE — An online competitor announced plans Tuesday to buy Alaska’s largest daily newspaper.

Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC, the parent company of the online newspaper the Alaska Dispatch, will purchase the Anchorage Daily News from The McClatchy Co. for $34 million. The sale is expected to close in May.

“This is a chance for us to get even more reporters on the ground and do more journalism,” said Tony Hopfinger, Alaska Dispatch’s co-founder, executive editor and president.

The Anchorage Daily News will continue to be printed seven days a week, and there are no plans at this time to change its name, he said. Plans are to integrate the two websites — www.alaskadispatch.com and www.adn.com — into one site within six months.

There also are no changes planned to the staffs at either site, beyond the retirements of Daily News Publisher Pat Doyle and Editor Pat Dougherty, Hopfinger said.

“The Anchorage Daily News and the Alaska Dispatch play vital roles in our great state,” Dispatch Publisher Alice Rogoff said in a statement. “By merging these operations, we can serve as a stronger, even more comprehensive resource for Alaskans for their news and information.”

Rogoff said the goal of the merged operations is to “offer a level of coverage never before seen in Alaska history, and to offer it to readers across the state through a variety of mediums.”

The Anchorage Daily News’ printed edition has a daily circulation of 57,622, and 71,233 on Sundays.

The newspaper was first printed Jan. 13, 1946. Two years later, it went from being printed weekly to six days a week, and added Sunday editions in 1949.

In 1979, McClatchy Newspapers bought 80 percent of the Anchorage Daily News, which had a heated rivalry with another daily newspaper, the Anchorage Times, until the Anchorage Times went out of business in 1992.

The Anchorage Daily News won Pulitzer Prizes for public service in 1976 and 1989.

“This is a bittersweet moment for all of us at McClatchy. We are extremely proud of the Daily News and its employees, their exceptional service to Alaska’s diverse communities and all of their contributions to McClatchy over the years,” Kevin McClatchy, the company’s chairman, said in a statement. “However, this sale not only makes sense from a local ownership perspective, but it also allows McClatchy to focus more resources on accelerating our digital transformation to better serve our communities.”

After the sale, McClatchy’s operations will include 29 daily newspapers, including the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram; The Sacramento Bee; The Kansas City Star; the Miami Herald; The Charlotte Observer; and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

Hopfinger started the Alaska Dispatch in 2008 with Amanda Coyne and Todd Hopfinger. In 2009, Rogoff, wife of financier David Rubenstein and a former chief financial officer of U.S. News and World Report, became the majority owner.

An upside of the merged staffs is that they no longer will spend time chasing the same story, which will allow reporters to write enterprising, investigative stories, Dispatch officials said.

Tony Hopfinger plans to re-establish a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, and aspires to have fulltime reporters based in Alaska hub communities.

The purchase includes the newspaper, its website and the newspaper’s headquarters in Anchorage. The Dispatch intends to sell the real estate holdings to a local buyer, and the newspaper will continue to be housed in its current location in East Anchorage as a tenant.

The sale of the Anchorage Daily News comes after other high-profile newspaper purchases lately.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post last year for $250 million.

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 31 small- and medium-sized daily newspapers. It has bought most of those newspapers since 2011 at bargain prices. Including weekly papers and other publications, Berkshire owns 70 newspapers.

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