Free Press owners purchase Hesston Record

The owners of the Hillsboro Free Press have purchased The Hesston Record and plan to return the on-line newspaper to print beginning May 5.

Joel Klaassen and Don Ratzlaff officially acquired the publication April 8 from Bob and Loretta Latta, who have owned it since 1985.

The Record, which started publishing Dec. 3, 1932, printed its last hard-copy edition Dec. 31, 2003, after moving from printing it every week to every other week last August.

The Record has been the state’s only totally on-line community newspaper since the first of this year.

“We’ve been impressed with the enthusiasm of community and business leaders in Hesston to see The Record back in print on a weekly basis,” Klaassen said.

“If we didn’t feel the community was ready to support a quality newspaper with subscriptions and advertising, we couldn’t have made this move.

“A progressive community like Hesston deserves a top-notch publication, and that’s what we intend to provide.”

Christine Wyrick, who has been hired as The Record’s managing editor, is familiar with Hesston and central Kansas. She studied journalism and English at Wichita State University from 1988 to 1992, then worked as a journalist in Valley Center and Newton for three years.

In 1996 she became assistant city editor with the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, which has a circulation of 43,000, and was editor of its targeted publication called South Sider.

While working in central Kansas, Wyrick wrote stories about Hesston and contributed to the book, “Year of the Storms,” which chronicled the infamous Hesston tornado of 1990.

“Christine brings amazing professional credentials and a strong desire to become part of the Hesston community,” Klaassen said. “She has tremendous skills-both editorial and design-and is committed to maintaining a high journalistic standard in Hesston as we try to do in Marion County.”

Bob Latta will continue to work full-time for The Record as a news and sports reporter and Web master. Prior to purchasing The Record, Latta worked as a copy editor and reporter at The Wichita Eagle and was editor of The Clearwater Times.

“Bob’s journalistic experience and intimate knowledge of the Hesston community will be a great asset as we begin this endeavor,” Klaassen said. “We feel this new arrangement was a win-win outcome for Bob, for us and ultimately for Hesston.”

“I’m thrilled that Hesston is once again going to have a print version of the newspaper,” Latta said. “I hated to shut it down in the first place, but I really had no alternative, given the economics. The advertising and subscription revenue just weren’t keeping up with the cost of doing business.”

Don Wipf will expand his role as advertising manager at the Free Press to assume similar responsibilities at The Record. Klaassen will help with ad sales.

“Part of our commitment to Hesston is to help promote their business community,” Klaassen said. “Ultimately, we will be successful in Hesston as we help its businesses be successful through effective advertising.”

Klaassen and Ratzlaff began publishing the Hillsboro Free Press as a total-market-coverage newspaper in August 1998 under the umbrella company Print Source Direct LLC.

That company also publishes the Hillsboro Free Press Extra, which is a paid-circulation weekly, and the Marion County Advocate, which is a bimonthly TMC distributed to every home in a 45-mile radius of Hillsboro.

The purchase of The Hesston Record was made under a newly formed company called Kansas Publishing Ventures LLC.

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