Free Press owners acquire Herington Times

Reports of the Herington Times’ death turn out to be greatly exaggerated.

After learning of the Times’ imminent closure, Joey and Lindsey Young, majority owners of the nearby Hillsboro Free Press, quickly cobbled together a plan to buy the Times from John Roberts of Holden, Mo., and keep the 127-year-old newspaper and community resource in business.

Roberts, who owned the paper for eight years, notified its staff of the closure Aug. 4 via email. The purchase took effect Aug. 9.

“We’ve spent our careers fighting for community journalism and weren’t going to watch a nearby paper die when we had an opportunity to do something about it,” Joey Young said of the acquisition.

The publication had declined in size, revenue and circulation from the days of owner Larry Byers. Young, however, hopes to restore the Times to a quality publication the community can be proud of and rely on to be a watchdog, advocate and reliable source for local news.

“We’ve got to cover government, write interesting features, fill the pages with local faces,” Young said. “This paper needs to be a reflection of the town and the people who call Herington home.”

Young, one of the young­est publishers in Kansas at age 30, has made a career of breathing life into small community papers. At 27, he purchased The Clarion in western Sedgwick County; it serves four communities with populations smaller than 1,500.

After buying the Clarion, Young was hand-selected by Joel Klaassen, founding publisher of the Hillsboro Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures, to buy his majority ownership share once Klaassen retired.

Klaassen worked for Bob and Maury Roberts at the Herington Advertiser-Times 51 years ago helping with the production of the newspaper and job printing.

“He’s made a lot of good decisions along the way,” Klaassen said of Young’s time with KPV. “He’s a good thinker, a good planner and has done a great job. I know he will succeed out there. Herington definitely needs to have a newspaper.”

In August 2015, KPV launched a weekly newspaper in Newton called Newton Now, and has made it a respected community voice all while competing against a corporately owned daily paper.

With the Times, Young will seek to immediately make strides to improve the paper, including solving printing issues and working with the postal service to make sure the paper arrives promptly in readers’ mailboxes.

Young said Wendy Jones at the Herington Chamber of Commerce was a big reason he felt comfortable with the decision to purchase the paper. He said she was very welcoming and encouraging over the phone and in person.

Young said it will take that sort of community support to make the turnaround successful over the long run.