After 75 years of ownership, the Wyoming Newspaper Group has sold the Northern Wyoming Daily News according to John Cribb, Cribb, Greene & Associates who represented the seller in the transaction.
The group made the decision to focus on their I-80 corridor newspapers, according to President of Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. Mike McCraken, who represents the McCraken family, the majority interest owner of the company.
The McCraken family’s association with the Northern Wyoming Daily News began June 1, 1939. The company also operates newspapers in Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins and Rock Springs.
Longtime Wyoming newspaper operators Robb and Jen Hicks of Buffalo and Gary and Sue Stevenson of Sheridan purchased the paper. The financial terms of the sale were not released.
“The McCraken family has had a long association with the Northern Wyoming Daily News and the paper has been good to us. We are very pleased to be selling to two Wyoming newspaper operators,” said McCraken. “They have a commitment to community newspapers and we are delighted that they were interested in buying the paper.”
Robb Hicks is a third-generation owner and publisher of the Buffalo Bulletin and also owns the Newcastle News Letter Journal. Gary Stevenson owns the Saratoga Sun and the Pine Bluffs Post and began his career selling advertising for the Cody Enterprise in 1986.
The two either own wholly, together, or with other partners, 29 titles in Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico, Michigan, Idaho and Washington. Their focus is on weekly and small daily community newspapers.
Gary Stevenson explained that each of their newspapers operate as their own entities.
“We don’t function as a normal newspaper company,” he said. “All of our papers are stand-alones. We are adamant about not putting out cookie cutter newspapers. Every paper, we hope, reflects its own community.”
Robb Hicks refers to the group as a federation of newspapers. He said their papers can share expertise and personnel if necessary, but for the most part, they are on their own.
“We know enough about Wyoming to know that the people on the ground in Worland, meaning the staff of the Northern Wyoming Daily News, know vastly more about Worland and the Big Horn Basin, the readers of the newspaper, and the advertisers in the newspaper than we will ever know,” Robb Hicks said.
He added, “We want to be the daily newspaper of the Big Horn Basin and if you look at the readership of the Northern Wyoming Daily News, they are already a great way to being there if they aren’t already. There’s more circulation than there are households in the city of Worland and that’s a tribute to the people that are putting out the paper.”
Both parties involved in the sale believe that keeping ownership in Wyoming was an important piece to the agreement. Robb Hicks and Gary Stevenson saw the opportunity to run a daily in their own state as a big selling point.
“It is a Wyoming newspaper that has been run well by another Wyoming newspaper family. It will be an opportunity to own one of the 10 daily newspapers in Wyoming,” said Robb Hicks, adding that the proximity to Buffalo was also a positive.
“It is our kind of paper,” added Gary Stevenson. “We are both Wyoming families. We target the small community newspapers and we think that is the future of the industry and the Big Horn Basin fits the bill perfectly.
“I think it is important for newspapers to set the tone for a community. While we never back away from covering the hard news, I think the challenge is to find what is good in the community. There’s a reason why we all live here and it is important that we write about it.”
Daily News Publisher Lee Lockhart said he couldn’t be happier that a Wyoming group was interested in purchasing the newspaper. “With owners who understand Wyoming community journalism, we will continue to be able to keep our focus on what is important to our readers,” he said.
The Northern Wyoming Daily News employs 23 people, not counting carriers who work as independent contractors.
John Cribb of Cribb, Greene and Associates represented the McCraken family in the sale.