By DOUG ARMBRUSTER
Managing Editor, Independence Reporter
The Independence Daily Reporter, for the first time since 1940, has new ownership.
Scott Wesner and Scott Wood, high school classmates who both have extensive newspaper experience, purchased the Reporter Publishing Co. in a transaction that was finalized Friday.
“We’re really excited to be the new owners of the Reporter,” Wood said. “In the time that we’ve spent here so far, it’s apparent that Independence is a wonderful community and we’re very excited to be involved in it.”
Wesner concurred, saying, “We’re really looking forward to being here. It’s an amazing community and we’ve both been very impressed with everything that Independence has going for it in a town this size.” Wood added, “We’re looking forward to continuing the great tradition of community journalism that is the legacy of the Meyer family and Hub Meyer these past years.”
The Reporter had been owned by the Meyer family since it was purchased in 1940 by Herbert A. Meyer. He was succeeded in 1950 by Herbert A. Meyer Jr. and in 1971 by Herbert A. “Hub” Meyer III, who served as editor and publisher until his death on Aug. 7 from prostate cancer.
The Reporter continues to be the oldest daily newspaper in southeast Kansas, having been established Sept. 12, 1881.
Meyer had contracted with newspaper broker Edward Anderson, of National Media Associates in Branson, Mo., prior to his death to begin the process of finding a new owner for the paper. His wife, Kristin, had been overseeing the newspaper’s operations since his passing.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Kristin Meyer said Friday after the transaction was finalized. “But this is what Hub wanted and it’s what’s best for the community.”
Although she was sad to see the paper leave the Meyer family after so many years, she said she is optimistic about its future under the new ownership.
“I’m very excited about Scott and Scott because of the new enthusiasm they are bringing to the newspaper,” Meyer said. “I have the utmost confidence they will continue with the integrity of the newspaper for many years to come.”
Wesner and Wood graduated from high school together in Cordell, Okla. Wesner, who now lives in Austin, Texas, has been in newspaper publishing for 25 years, primarily in the Texas Hill Country and Panhandle. He and his brother, Brett, bought their first newspaper together when he was just
19 years old and Brett also remains in the newspaper business, with papers in Oklahoma and Texas.
Wesner is the father of two children, Hanna, 12, and William, 11.
Wood got his start in the newspaper business in 1997 in West Texas and in 2003 moved to Muenster, Texas, acquiring three newspapers in that area. In addition to the newspapers that they own individually, they co-own one additional paper in Dalhart, Texas, which is published semi-weekly.
Wood and his wife, Deborah, have two children, Emma, 15, and Sarah, 6. Wesner and Wood’s acquisition of the Reporter came together rather quickly, with the entire process transpiring in just the past few weeks, so they are still assessing the situation before making any major decisions about the paper’s future direction, but Wesner said one overriding factor will be the main consideration with any decisions made.
“Really, we’re all about having an excellent newspaper and that’s our main focus,” he said. “We both believe that newspapers are vital to small towns and we want the Reporter to be a vital part of Independence and the area.”
Among the changes that the pair have already determined is that they plan to upgrade the outdated computers in the Reporter office. And in a move that has often been requested by the public, they plan to establish a website for the Reporter in the near future.