BY DAVE GAUGER
Merle and Mary Baranczyk, owners of Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., and Jim O’Rourke, CEO of O’Rourke Media Group, announced the sale of Arkansas Valley Publishing to O’Rourke Media Group at a staff meeting Thursday morning. “I’m super excited to welcome Arkansas Valley Publishing into O’Rourke Media Group,” O’Rourke said. “For the past 48 years, Merle and his team have done an amazing job changing with the times, publishing engaging local newspapers, and supporting the communities served.“We look forward to continuing this great work with an eye always on what we can do to improve, especially with bringing new digital products and solutions to market.” O’Rourke Media Group plans to hire all current AVP employees. Advertisers and subscribers can expect no interruptions with service and support from day one, which is Monday. O’Rourke Media Group started in 2018 and is a fast-growing company that owns and operates super-local community newspapers, niche publications, and a full-service digital agency.
“We are family-owned and mission-driven to save newspapers and local media companies by investing in the people, resources, and technology needed to thrive for many years to come,” O’Rourke said. O’Rourke Media operates in eight states with 31 publications and hyper-local websites. News teams excel at producing unique content and useful information that fuels an engaged, growing audience across print and digital platforms, and they have established themselves as a top-performing sales company in the industry, O’Rourke said. The purchase of Arkansas Valley Publishing includes five newspapers – The Mountain Mail and Mountain Guide in Salida; Chaffee County Times, Buena Vista; Herald Democrat, Leadville; and The Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume. The total staff includes 35 full-time employees, some of whom have been with the newspapers for over 40 years.
O’Rourke literally grew up in the news business and said he is on a mission to see it thrive. He started out at age 9 in Philadelphia as a newspaper carrier, moved on to managing carriers, and after college went into the business. Community news is his focus. “We plan to spend the first few months here meeting the people and finding out what we can do to help grow the business,” he said. He and his wife, Denise, have three children and live in Phoenix, Arizona, where the corporate office is located. The company’s 31 newspapers are in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Delaware, Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, and now Colorado.
Merle Baranczyk has served as president of the Colorado Press Association and National Newspaper Association and over the years has received numerous awards for his publications, including being named to the Colorado Press Association’s Hall of Fame in 2019. “We are thankful and have been blessed with good people all along,” he said. “That is what got us to where we are today. The fact that someone is interested in these communities and its newspapers says something about our commitment to the people and communities served.“There are news deserts out there, where papers have folded up, and that is a tragedy and not healthy for a democratic society. It’s significant that AVP is stable. If it weren’t, no one would be interested in continuing this business.”
AVP operates a central print plant in Salida, printing its newspapers along with a number of newspapers from the surrounding region. “We feel good about Jim O’Rourke and O’Rourke Media,” Baranczyk said. In researching the company, Baranczyk said he was impressed with its websites and the fact that the newspapers focused on local news, down to featuring T-ball teams, school and community events, and other local happenings. “This isn’t a simple operation,” he said. “Jim and his company are capable and have proven themselves able to operate a media business and do it successfully, responding to the communities they serve. “It’s a plus for our readers and advertisers that the folks at O’Rourke Media know how to operate.”
He cited the reason for selling as simply because “we needed to do this. “I’m not getting any younger and this is a fair-sized company. We wanted to be in control of the transfer process. “We are thankful for the people who have supported us, who have done business with us over the years – our subscribers and advertisers. They are the reason for the newspaper business. And we are thankful for our print customers and our current staff and all those we have worked with over the years. “We have been blessed to be in this community. It’s been a rewarding experience with no small amount of satisfaction. I will miss the daily connections and engagement. “Mary and I are not going anywhere. We are staying in the community and plan to spend more time with our daughter, grandkids, and great-grandkids and go from there.”
Dave Gauger with Gauger Media Service, Inc. in Raymond, Wash. represented the Baranczyks in this transaction.
The Baranczyks came to work at The Mountain Mail in September 1974. In May 1978 they formed Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., purchasing The Mail from The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction. At that time it was strictly print. In 1996 AVP went online. In 1985, 1986, and 1987, the Baranczyks purchased The Chaffee County Times, Leadville Herald Democrat, and Fairplay Flume. AVP publishes several niche specialty editions, complementing the company’s news publications.