By the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle staff
A new chapter begins at the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, as the newspaper will go from one family owner to another.
Montgomery Communications, Junction City, will take over the ownership of the Reflector-Chronicle, from Cleveland Newspapers Inc., a Birmingham, Ala.-based newspaper company effective immediately. The news was jointly announced by John G. Montgomery of Montgomery Communications and C. Lee Walls Jr. of Cleveland Newspapers Inc.
“John and his family have published newspapers in and around the Junction City area for more than 100 years. He has a great appreciation for the rich history of the Abilene community and the reputation of the Reflector-Chronicle,” said editor-publisher Dave Bergmeier.
The commitment the Reflector-Chronicle has made to its readers is well known and respected across the state as are the past editor-publishers Henry Jameson and Vivien Sadowski who were both inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame.
Montgomery, who knew both publishers well, joined the elite group as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Walls noted that he first came to Abilene when he was around eight or nine years old, tagging along on a business trip with his father, Lee Walls Sr. That was an early trip that led to others, and then the subsequent purchase of the paper by the Walls family.
“We’ve had this paper for a long time and we've appreciated the contributions of the staff to publish a quality newspaper that is a point of pride for Abilene,” Walls said. “We feel confident that this is a good move for all given the newspaper will be owned by a Kansas company that is close to Abilene, and one with many generations of local newspaper ownership,”
When his family made the decision to sell the newspaper Walls said, “we understand what the Reflector-Chronicle means to Abilene and Dickinson County and we wanted a new owner who would carry on the legacy.”
The Walls family has owned the newspaper for more than 40 years. During that span the newspaper has had only three editor-publishers – Jameson, Sadowski and Bergmeier.
Bergmeier, who has been editor-publisher the past 14 years, said, “the transition of a newspaper to a new owner represents a new opportunity for the staff and readers. The media is facing unprecedented challenges like many other industries. The commitment made by Montgomery Communications is great news in our eyes. Over the years the owners of this newspaper, whether it was Charles Harger, Henry Jameson, the Walls family and now John Montgomery - they all have a common link, which is a great appreciation and commitment to serving readers in Abilene and Dickinson County.”
“We are excited about the many synergies this acquisition will enable us to create for our staff, readers and business communities across all of our newspapers and websites,” Montgomery said. “We are equally excited to incorporate the key management team of the Reflector-Chronicle into our senior leadership team at Montgomery Communications. These opportunities will enable us to make enhancements over the next several months and into the future for our newspapers, websites and business systems.”
Montgomery has been a leader in national journalism circles, having served on the boards of the American Newspaper Publishers Association and The Associated Press. He also has been active in numerous local and state organizations. He twice was appointed to the Kansas Board of Regents, including serving as chairman. He is a longtime Kansas Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and in 2010, was named Civilian Aide Emeritus. Montgomery Communications currently owns and publishes The Daily Union in Junction City, the Wamego (Kan.) Smoke Signal and a real estate magazine.
“The acquisition represents a new chapter for the Reflector-Chronicle. While we will miss our long-time association with the Walls family, our new ownership will not change our continued commitment and relationships with our community, readers and advertisers,” Bergmeier said.