Editor & Publisher (last time)

As I announced in a letter to readers in the April 10 issue, this newspaper was in the process of being sold. Now that the legal documents have been signed, I’m pleased to announce that The Skagway News will be under new ownership as of May 1. It has been sold to the owners of PR Services in Whitehorse, a Yukon publishing company that already has strong Skagway ties.
The next issue will be under the ownership of Alaska Travel Publications LLP, registered in Alaska by PR Services owners Jan Aalt van den Hoorn and Chris Sorg (more about them below).

The Skagway News will not change its name. Current reporter Elise Giordano will be the new editor, and advertising director and business manager Katie Kollasch will remain in her current position. I will be around for a year or so as “editor emeritus” to help with the transition. I also will continue to edit the Skaguay Alaskan visitor newspaper and be “chief newsie” for a couple more years under the new ownership.

I am retaining the Skaguay News Depot and Lynn Canal Publishing, our bookstore and book divisions, combined under the banner of Skagway Book Co. LLC, which will sublease the upstairs office at to the new owners of the newspaper. This arrangement has been approved by the National Park Service, our landlords. All proceeds from the sale, after taxes, will be donated to the Margaret Frans Brady Fund to support arts and education projects and scholarships in the area.

It is time for me to completely step back from the news business and move on to other interests.

More than five years ago, I first listed our business with a newspaper broker in the hopes of finding someone who would come in and take over our entire operation. After reaching my 50s, and after more than 30 years of running the paper here, I was ready. I thought someone like me would jump at the chance to take the reins of this business. A young working couple or partners willing to move to Skagway was desirable, but the ads generated only a few queries, with none of them reaching the serious phase of negotiations.

As my daughter said, “Very few people in my generation are willing to take the kind of risks you took.” It made sense, but it was still disconcerting. I changed direction a bit a couple years ago, and went to a staff of two, an assistant editor and a bookkeeper/advertising person to do 90 percent of what I used to do. I was content to “ride out” things this way and continue the wait, and I also listed the newspaper separately from the bookstore.

Then, last fall, one of the new owners of PR Services said they might be interested in The Skagway News, and we started a conversation. After taking my family on a long vacation, I resumed talks with both owners early this year. They wanted The Skagway News to be a base for a new Alaska entity that would also run some other publications and websites in the future. We had a long talk about how things should work, because running a community newspaper is a huge responsibility, and I was satisfied that they were committed to keeping The Skagway News an independent and respected publication and voice in the community. Best of all, they wanted to keep current staff in Skagway running the news operation.

For those of you who do not know PR Services, it was established by Pat Reece of Whitehorse in 1983. They publish the Skagway City Map Attraction & Service Guide for the municipality and most of the community visitor publications in the Yukon, in addition to managing several websites, including the CVB’s, White Pass’s and others in Skagway. I have worked closely with Jan Aalt van den Hoorn on Pat’s staff for years, and was pleased when he told me a year ago that he bought the company with long-time bookstore owner Chris Sorg, another person I have known for years. Chris is American born, and Jan has a sister, Willeke Burnham, who lives in Skagway. Jan’s nephews work for us as newsies.

So the ties are already strong, and we have been working hard to make sure there will be a smooth transition. You will see a change in the look of the News in the next issue, as it has been in need of a redesign for some time, but I can assure you that the news, photos and advertising content you have relied on for the past 37 years will be just as vibrant and strong. Elise, Katie and the new owners will announce more about their plans for the future – including changes to the website – in the next issue on May 15.

Because the upstairs and downstairs operations will separate on May 1, people will need to get used to paying their news and bookstore bills separately. The two businesses will keep the same Box 498 in the post office for the time being. Checks for the paper will still be made out to The Skagway News. Bookstore accounts will be paid to Skagway Book Co.

Oh, yeah. What about me? People are constantly asking me, “What will you do?” Well, I have a simple answer to that, “Less and more.”

I’m not going anywhere. I will still have a desk in the building, but I’m hoping that with less responsibility for the almost daily news grind, if you will, that I will have more time for myself, my wife and my family. More time in summer to hike and canoe. More time in winter for watching my son’s high school activities. And more time to travel, when I want to, not having to worry about being back for a news deadline. I want to get back to my own creative writing pursuits that have been on hold for 37 years, and I want more time to devote to the bookstore, publishing, and turning our Alderworks Writers and Artists Retreat in Dyea into an arts destination that the community will embrace. So I have a pretty full plate.

Finally, as I move out of the editor’s chair, I want to thank our many loyal readers for your support over the years. You helped me get this paper cranked up when I was a young kid just out of college in May 1978. The Skagway News has grown with your support, and we must continue to support its independent voice. I’ll continue to stand behind it, as I hope you will.