AMSTERDAM — The Daily Gazette announced Monday that it has purchased The Recorder, Courier-Standard-Enterprise and Fulton County Express newspapers.
The three will remain in publication and remain based in Amsterdam, though not in the same building off Route 5S that has been home to The Recorder for decades, according to Gazette Publisher John DeAugustine.
The transaction was completed Monday following years of informal discussions and a shorter period of actual negotiation by Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary and DeAugustine.
McClary said he wanted to sell to The Gazette; DeAugustine said The Gazette’s board of directors wanted to extend the publication’s core mission.
“Our mission is to support the local communities we serve with outstanding journalism,” DeAugustine said. “Because we believe that is critical to the success of any community. So for us it’s just a natural expansion to acquire the Recorder when Kevin was ready to sell it.”
Photos by Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer
McClary said he’s going to be moving to Old Forge in the western Adirondacks, where he’ll continue to publish the newspapers McClary Media is retaining — Hamilton County Express and Adirondack Express. It will be a step toward retirement for the 65-year-old Mayfield resident, but he wanted to ensure the Recorder would continue without him. He saw The Gazette, another family-owned publication dating to the late 1800s, as a good steward, and turned down unsolicited purchase offers from other companies in favor of The Gazette.
“I want to see Amsterdam have a daily paper,” he said. “People don’t realize the importance until it’s gone.”
WIDE COVERAGE AREA
McClary Media had five titles spanning a wide geographic area: The Recorder focuses on Amsterdam and the nearby Mohawk Valley; the Courier-Standard-Enterprise reports on Canajoharie and surrounding communities; and the three Express newspapers focus on the areas in their titles.
The Recorder publishes six days a week, the others once a week.
The two publications McClary is retaining are different from the three he is selling to The Gazette in that they cover a mountainous region heavily oriented toward tourism.
He likes the Adirondacks, owns property there and plans to live there, so it’s a good fit, he said.
McClary started his career at General Electric in Schenectady but soon moved to The Recorder, which at the time was expanding its use of computers, an interest of his. GE had 25,000 employees in Schenectady at the time but was steadily shrinking, and McClary didn’t see a great career path there.
In his 38 years at the Recorder, McClary worked mainly in management and business. He became publisher in 2007, then purchased the company in 2014 from Port Jackson Media, which had owned it only briefly.
McClary created the Fulton County Express during his tenure but also saw contraction on multiple fronts: The Recorder ceased Sunday publication and later turned off its obsolete printing press, contracting with The Gazette to print all five newspapers and also to deliver The Recorder.
Its workforce shrank over the years, then dwindled further as McClary stopped replacing departing employees while he and DeAugustine finalized the sale.
McClary Media is down to 20 workers now, six or seven of whom Kevin McClary hopes to retain to run his smaller company out of its new home in Old Forge.
The timing was right for this move, McClary said: His lease is about to expire on The Recorder’s building, which is still owned by the newspaper’s previous owners; the printing press has been removed and scrapped; and he’s ready to spend a little more time snowmobiling.
He’ll help for a while as needed with the transition, but much of the technical and practical aspects of the change in ownership are already completed, including printing and delivery of The Recorder.
“A lot of this is going to be a pretty good fit,” McClary said.
FEET ON THE GROUND
DeAugustine said he plans to retain the Recorder’s Amsterdam presence. “Hopefully right on Main Street,” he said. “That’s our goal. I’ve got a couple of buildings I already wish we were in.”
He said he wants to retain some Recorder employees, as well.
“We would like to pick up all of his reporters. It’s not our intention to cut any reporting resources. On the [advertising] sales side, we would love to talk to them and get them over here.”
But Recorder employees who work in management or human resources or other back-office functions may not be brought over, he said.
“We already employ those people and we have technology that makes it streamlined, so we should be able to save a lot of money in that area and hopefully we’ll be able to invest some of that back into the content we’re going to put out.”
He said it will be impossible to quantify the workforce transition until he sees how successful he is at recruiting the employees he wants, how successful McClary is at retaining the employees he wants, and how many Recorder employees aren’t needed by either McClary Media or The Gazette.
DeAugustine will be the publisher of the three acquired newspapers; their editor will be Gazette Editor Miles Reed.
The Gazette will maintain a separate identity from the three newspapers it is buying, DeAugustine said, even as there may be some shared content among them.
“They certainly won’t be the same publications,” he said. “The products will be dramatically different from day to day.”
The city of Amsterdam needs its own newspaper, DeAugustine said.
“We know that the news coming out of Amsterdam has not been great over the past couple of years. It’s the most fiscally stressed city in New York. We understand that, and we’re not afraid of that, because the good people of Amsterdam didn’t do that. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happened in that community that put it behind the eight ball.”
DeAugustine said The Gazette is able to make this commitment to the city and make this investment in the three newspapers because it has diversified its revenue stream beyond print and digital journalism.
The Gazette has seen staff reductions of its own as the traditional newspaper industry contracts but it has not needed to cut its newsroom to the same degree as some national chains because it has found a formula that works, he said.
This has included expanding its contract printing for numerous other publications, including some competitors; creation of a sign-printing business; and leasing out unused space in its large headquarters building on Maxon Road Extension in Schenectady.