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Newspaper Tradition Ends In Columbus, Dispatch Sold

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Dispatch Neon Sign 34 South Third

The century long tradition of Columbus having a local family owned newspaper will end.  The Columbus Dispatch will soon have new owners.  The Wolfe family will sell the paper and other print publications to a New York City investment firm.

The neon sign atop the Dispatch building across from the statehouse reads "Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper."  The Dispatch name will remain, but it will no longer be a home newspaper.

In a move rumored and anticipated for years, Publisher John F Wolfe announced the end of his family's 110 year run in the newspaper business.  The family has agreed to sell its print publications to New Media Investment Group.   The New York based firm owns more than 400 publications, including 126 daily newspapers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but New Media plans to use cash and 25 million dollars in credit.

The news was stunning, but not a surprise to Mike Curtin.  The state rep worked at The Dispatch for nearly 40 years, including 11 in management

"The sale was inevitable. The only question was whether it would occur several years ago or several years from now. As a single city family-owned independent newspaper it's one of very few of those remaining in the country."

The Dispatch has shrunk its staff and its paper in recent years, but it wasn't enough. Publisher Wolfe wrote in a statement that they "concluded the paper's future success is most enhanced within a newspaper company that has both regional and national reach, as well as strong marketing and digital operations, providing the economies of scale essential for optimum efficiency,"

Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership says the city will lose something in the sale.   He says , local ownership makes a difference in how the city and region is reported.

"More intense set of coverage of the issues that face our community in an in-depth way.  We have certainly enjoyed some of the highest quality journalism due to the investment of the Wolfe family," says Fischer.

The deal includes the Dispatch owned suburban weeklies and seven magazines, including Columbus Monthly.  The Dispatch Printing Company will keep its name, Chanel 10, WBNS Radio its TV station in Indianapolis and a real estate company. New Media Investments and its subsidiary GateHouse have been buying lots of newspapers in recent years- spending $500 million on deals since 2013.  The firm faces criticism for its consolidation and cost-cutting moves.

Mike Curtin predicts layoffs at the Dispatch

"I think it's almost inevitable that they'll use the economies of scale they have across 20 some states to find those efficiencies, to find some common platforms for different functions that would result in fewer positions at the newspaper," says Curtin.

The Dispatch and New Media expect the sale to be complete by the end of June.  There's no word on what the sign above the newsroom will read.