The Coastside-based California benefit corporation that owns the Half Moon Bay Review has added a second newspaper to its portfolio. The Coastside News Group Inc. announced on Thursday that it had purchased the Pacifica Tribune.
The purchase promises to revitalize the long-standing Pacifica newspaper, which has served North County residents for almost 90 years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition, made possible by investments from Pacifica residents, brings both of the legacy newspapers on the San Mateo County coast under the same ownership for the first time. CNGI was established by local residents in 2017 to purchase the Half Moon Bay newspaper from a private company in Arizona. Its status as a benefit corporation means the company must be driven by its mission and exist for the community good.
“The synergies between these adjacent coastal communities will help us fulfill our primary mission to support and expand quality local journalism on the San Mateo Coast,” said Coastside News Group CEO Rich Klein in a prepared statement. He noted that Half Moon Bay and Pacifica seem closer since the opening of the Devil’s Slide tunnels and the acquisition is further evidence of combined interests.
Over the last quarter century, the purchase of a newspaper by a neighboring company has often been driven by economies of scale. Past owners of the Tribune, including the Bay Area News Group, slashed costs and buttressed editorial coverage with regional news produced by journalists elsewhere. Principals in the current deal maintain that will not be the case this time, promising to add staff and local news over time.
The journey toward the deal began last year, when Pacificans Pete Shoemaker, Peter Loeb, John Keener and others — inspired by the local purchase of the Review — reached out to Review Editorial Director Clay Lambert about the possibility of a similar purchase in Pacifica. That led to extensive talks with the CNGI board, which includes Klein, Lenny Mendonca, Susy Castoria, Kelly Hoffman-Davis and Roy Salume.
Klein reached out to Pacifica Tribune owner Sherman R. Fredrick earlier this year and a deal was struck in recent days.
“I am happy to turn over the reins of the Tribune to an award-winning local group who has years of experience in journalism,” Fredrick said in the release. His Battle Born Media will continue to own newspapers in Marin County and Nevada.
“Hooking up with Half Moon Bay puts Pacifica on a wonderful path to maintain a local newspaper in Pacifica,” he stated.
As a benefit corporation, CNGI must deliver community benefit as well as manage a sustainable enterprise.
The Coastside News Group intends to hire additional editorial and business staff to run the Tribune. They will report to Debra Hershon, who will serve as publisher for both publications. Lambert will manage editorial employees for the Review and the Tribune.
Hershon said the addition of advertisers and readers on both sides of Devil’s Slide will be key to the success of both newspapers, their web presence and assorted periodicals. Lambert said he was looking forward to the challenge and learning more about the Pacifica community.
“It is nothing less than thrilling to be adding journalists and reinvigorating local journalism on the California coast at a time when so many news organizations across the country are shedding jobs and succumbing to absentee ownership,” Lambert said in the statement.
The purchase comes at a precarious time for the news industry as a whole. While millions of Americans are logging into news sites for the latest information about the spread of COVID-19, wildfires, elections and more, the pandemic has exacerbated ongoing challenges to prevailing business models and led to steep declines in editorial production. Early in the pandemic, the New York Times reported that 36,000 media employees had been laid off, furloughed or accepted pay cuts this year.
CNGI has not laid off nor furloughed employees since its formation.