Beaufort Media Group Acquires Lowcountry Local Media

The Bluffton Sun and Hilton Head Sun have been purchased by a group whose history with South Carolina newspapers dates back to the 1890s. Jack and Kyle Osteen — part of the family that has owned The Sumter Item, a five-day-per-week community newspaper in Sumter, South Carolina, since 1894 — purchased the Bluffton-based newspaper group along with Vince Johnson, the current group publisher of The Sumter Item.

Dirks, Van Essen & April, a media merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented Lowcountry Local Media in the transaction. Terms were not disclosed. The transaction closed on Aug. 31.

Osteen, Osteen and Johnson also own the Lexington County Chronicle in Lexington, South Carolina, and Gulf Coast Media newspapers in Baldwin County, Alabama.

As part of the change, former owner and publisher Kevin Aylmer — who has owned Lowcountry Local Media since 2017 — is planning to retire. Aylmer will assist in the ownership transition. “We are pleased to have served the readers of The Bluffton Sun and Hilton Head Sun for the past six years. We are proud of the newspapers we produce and are confident the Osteens will continue the tradition of providing timely local news and information going forward,” Aylmer said.

The Osteen/Johnson companies are known for quality journalism in print and online and as innovators in publishing local news. The group plans to build on the success of The Bluffton Sun and Hilton Head Sun. “We’re excited to continue the legacy of this important local news operation in Bluffton and Hilton Head,” the company said in a statement. “The fact that every resident receives the publication for free is a great resource for readers and is ideal for advertisers, and these are phenomenal communities for local news.”

The new ownership group plans to retain current staff positions and add to the local staff in the coming months

Times Media Group Acquires SoCal-Based Acorn Newspapers

Accelerating Times Media Group’s expansion into southern California, the company has acquired The Acorn Newspapers, with five award-winning brands serving more than 340,000 readers in western Los Angeles and eastern Ventura Counties, according to TMG founder and President Steve Strickbine.

The acquisition includes weeklies The Acorn of Agoura Hills, the Moorpark Acorn, the Simi Valley Acorn, the Camarillo Acorn and the Thousand Oaks Acorn, along with several companion publications and associated websites.

“This is a great day for both Times Media Group and the Acorn Newspapers,” said Strickbine. “Jim and Lisa Rule have built a highly respected, trusted community news brand that provides exceptional news coverage for readers and terrific value for advertisers. This alliance blends perfectly with Times Media Group’s commitment to providing communities the local news and information they need with a high degree of accuracy and truth.”

The Acorn publications join Times Media Group’s other Southern California community news properties, including the Pasadena Weekly, LA Downtown News, Argonaut in Santa Monica, Ventura County Reporter and the recently acquired Picket Fence Media, publisher of several publications in the Orange County area.

Conejo Valley residents Jim and Lisa Rule purchased the Agoura, Calabasas, Westlake Village Acorn in 1996. Under their leadership, the publications grew to become one of the most respected and trusted community news groups in the state of California. The couple subsequently added papers in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark and Camarillo, and also launched Beyond the Acorn, a news and features magazine.

“While passing the torch is never easy, we are confident in the bright future of Acorn Newspapers under Steve Strickbine’s leadership,” said the Rules, who in 2017 shared the California Press Foundation’s Justus F. Craemer Newspaper Executive of the Year Award. “Steve shares our passion for hyperlocal journalism and deep community ties. We are proud to have nurtured these publications and now entrust their legacy to such a capable new caretaker. “Though we as a couple are no longer at the helm, both of us look forward to contributing as loyal readers while cheering on Acorn Newspapers’ continued success in this next chapter with Times Media Group.”

The Colorado Sun, A Pioneering For-Profit/ Nonprofit Hybrid, Moves Toward A Fully Nonprofit Model

The Colorado Sun is going nonprofit. The five-year-old digital news organization, launched by journalists who’d left The Denver Post following round after round of cuts by the paper’s hedge-fund owner, Alden Global Capital, had operated as a rare for-profit exception in the universe of local news startups. Now the Sun is joining its tax-exempt peers. “Whether I agree with it or not, whether I even like it or not, the reality is that many individuals, many institutions and philanthropic groups, have concluded that journalism should be nonprofit,” editor Larry Ryckman said in a phone interview on Monday. “I have my own thoughts on that, but that is reality.”

The move was not entirely unexpected. The Sun is one of the projects highlighted in a forthcoming book by Ellen Clegg and me, “What Works in Community News: Media Startups, News Deserts, and the Future of the Fourth Estate,” which will be published by Beacon Press in early 2024.