A Wyoming newspaper publisher who’s bullish on weeklies is the new owner of The Nugget, which has been serving Sisters since 1978.
J. Louis Mullen and his father, Tom Mullen, bought The Nugget from longtime publisher Kiki Dolson Nov. 1 for an undisclosed price, Louis Mullen said. Dolson was traveling and couldn’t be reached for comment, but according to an article published in The Nugget, she sold the paper because she wanted to retire. She intends to stay in Sisters, where she also runs the Furry Friends Foundation, a nonprofit that helps pets stay in their homes by providing food and sponsoring spay/neuter services, according to The Nugget.
Louis Mullen, who lives in Buffalo, Wyoming, and owns several other weeklies in Wyoming and Washington, said he plans no changes to The Nugget’s staff or operations.
“The people in Sisters love their newspaper,” Mullen said. Visiting Sisters to close the transaction last week, Mullen said he ate breakfast at La Magie and saw three different people reading The Nugget.
“People love that newspaper, and it’s different than a shopper because there’s actual news in it.”
The Nugget is a free weekly that distributes 7,800 to 8,000 copies, depending on the season, Mullen said. The paper is printed in Bend at Western Communications, which owns The Bulletin. Mullen said this is the first free weekly he’s purchased, but its operations are similar to those with paid subscriptions.
He’s bullish on weeklies because he believes they face less competition for advertising revenue from online advertising platforms and other forms of news media.
“Smaller communities don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “There is no competition. The internet upstarts are not interested in servicing that smaller community. There is no other place for the population in those towns to get their news than our product.”
Apart from the Mail Tribune in Medford and Ashland Daily Tidings, not many Oregon newspapers have changed hands in recent years, said Laurie Hieb, executive director of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Rosebud Media, led by entrepreneur Steven Saslow, bought Southern Oregon Media Group from New Media Investment Group, which operates GateHouse Media, for $15 million early this year, the Mail Tribune reported.
Mullen declined to discuss how he connected with Dolson to acquire The Nugget, but he’s familiar with Central Oregon, and he’s in an acquisition mode.
Louis Mullen, 32, started buying newspapers in 2013. Partnering with his father, a veteran newspaper owner, when he bought the Green River Star and Thermopolis Independent Record, both in Wyoming, he said. Mullen is the sole owner of the Newport Miner in Newport, Washington, and he partnered with his brother Lloyd Mullen to acquire the Port Townsend Leader in Port Townsend, Washington, he said.
Growing up in a newspaper-owning family, Mullen said he’s held every job except pressman. His first job, at age 4, was delivering copies of the Sioux City Journal in Sioux City, Iowa.
In Sisters, Mullen will take over some of the duties of publisher. He couldn’t say whether he will end up moving to Sisters with his wife, who is a doctor, and daughter.
“I wouldn’t hate it, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “Sisters is exactly like my kind of community.”
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