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King County Journal Newspapers sold to Black Press

King County Journal Newspapers' soon-to-be-new owners plan to expand the chain's non-daily community newspapers by increasing their frequency of publication, beefing up local news content and adding editorial staff. But executives from Victoria, British Columbia-based Black Press Ltd. told employees Monday, Nov. 27, it may be several weeks before a decision is made regarding the future of the daily King County Journal.

Black Press, through its U.S. arm, Bainbridge Island-based Sound Publishing Inc., will take over ownership of the King County Journal and its 10 non-daily sister publications - including the Snoqualmie Valley Record - on Thursday, Nov. 30, said Don Kendall, vice president of Sound Publishing.

King County Journal Newspapers employs 328 people. No layoffs or changes to employees' wages or benefits are planned at this time until Black Press decides what to do with the daily paper, Kendall said.

The Canadian company is paying an undisclosed amount for King County Journal Newspapers to Peter Horvitz and his family, who owned the company for 12 years. The company was put up for sale in June. "I made every effort to find a buyer who could develop and execute a plan to turn around King County Journal Newspapers," Horvitz told employees in Kent on Monday.

"I believe we've found that company in Black Press," Horvitz said.

"It's no secret" that the King County Journal has been losing money in recent years, and that the various business plans Black Press has considered thus far for the daily paper all have been "challenging," Kendall told employees in Kent.

"We aren't in the business of closing papers, but we can't make any promises as to the future of the daily," said Kendall.

On the other hand, Kendall said he couldn't think of a single instance in which Black has closed a newspaper.

Kendall said what most attracted his company to buy King County Journal Newspapers was its non-daily community newspapers, which are profitable. The chain's non-daily papers include seven Reporter papers that are published twice monthly in Auburn, Bellevue, Bothell/Kenmore, Covington/Maple Valley, Kent, Redmond and Renton, the weekly Mercer Island Reporter and Snoqualmie Valley Record and the monthly Snoqualmie Valley Living.

Kendall said his company plans to increase the frequency of publication for the seven twice-monthly Reporter papers to once a week beginning early next year, and will increase them to twice-a-week papers in the spring. Kendall also said his company intends to increase the local news content of its Reporter papers, add editorial staff at those publications and move them into bureau offices located in the communities they cover. "Our goal is that the Reporter papers become the community paper for each of their communities," said Kendall.

The new owners will hold off on adding workers at its Reporter papers until the fate of the daily King County Journal is decided, Kendall said. David Grant, a Journal reporter in Bellevue who serves as the union representative for 25 newsroom and advertising employees there, said on Monday, "I would like to believe they [the new owners] will find a way to keep the daily King County Journal in business. "If that doesn't happen, we have been told the company plans to honor the current union contract in Bellevue," Grant said.

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