Gazette Leader Continues Sun Gazette’s Legacy

Gazette Leader Continues Sun Gazettes Legacy

On February 1, 2023, all hopes seemed dashed for Northern Virginia’s Sun Gazette. The newspaper’s parent company, HPR-Hemlock LLC, had tried and failed to secure a buyer for the local fixture. After a somber conference call between the paper’s previous owner and its small staff of journalists, the Sun Gazette seemed finished for good. Then came O’Rourke Media Group. 

The practice of purchasing and selling local newspapers is nothing new. Nationwide, it is normal for small papers to survive through the continual shifts in leadership that ultimately keep them alive. However, local publications continue to thrive because of their career staffers who stay dedicated through every change. Arlington’s favorite publications are no different.  

In 2012, the American Community Newspapers LLC (ACN) sold HPR-Hemlock their entire Northern Virginia Division, whose publications circulated among 191,000 residents. This blanket purchase included the Sun Gazette. 

Regardless of that leadership change, the Sun Gazette’s team of journalists appeared to operate on a consistent level. This reaction is reflected in the Gazette Leader’s recent transition, which seems to be minimal for the paper’s employees.

“Same production staff, same advertising staff, same editorial staff, same delivery driver, everything,” Gazette Leader Sports Editor Dave Facinoli said. 

O’Rourke’s purchase is similar to the 2012 deal in that it concerns multiple geographic areas; the company bought the Sun Gazette’s Arlington and Fairfax branches. The paper will continue its predecessor’s coverage of Great Falls, Vienna, Oakton and McLean.

Since the paper’s coverage and small staff have stayed constant, the only remaining questions inquire after the new face of the Gazette Leader: O’Rourke Media Group. The company currently owns 24 publications and hyperlocal websites in six states. With so many papers that address individualistic, tight knit communities, how will O’Rourke juggle their ownership responsibilities across state lines?

The answer can only lie in the Gazette Leader’s staff. As seen in the newspaper’s history, its leadership hasn’t been local for quite some time, if ever, but this isn’t the case for its staff members.

“We’re real experienced, we know the area real well, and I think that makes up for a lack of local ownership,” Facinoli said. 

For staffers who are interested in keeping their job, having ownership at all is a saving grace. Without an owner, small papers have no choice but to shut down. O’Rourke’s team of marketing experts consults with papers of any size or budget to help them stay above water.

“We are family-owned and mission-driven to save newspapers and local media companies by investing in the people, resources and technology needed to grow revenue and thrive for many years to come,” CEO Jim O’Rourke said in a statement.

Since O’Rourke took over, the Gazette Leader has stayed on its predecessor’s publication schedule. The six days between the paper’s purchase and first issue were hectic as staffers adapted to a new computer system. Despite those adjustments, the paper seems to have stayed on track in the last month, releasing virtual and print articles on a weekly basis. 

Although changes have not been noticeable yet, residents should anticipate further development in the Gazette Leader’s future. The paper is looking to increase readership and circulation by expanding to social media. Readers will eventually be able to consume the gazette’s content on Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram, a progressive approach compared to the Gazette Leader’s current website and weekly printout.

Even after a steep transition to new leadership, not much has shifted within the Gazette Leader’s inner operations. There is no telling what the future holds, but the newspaper’s reliable staff that has served the community for years seems positive about their new leadership.

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About the Contributor
Celeste Wetmore, Head Editor
Celeste Wetmore is a senior returning for her second year on staff. She is serving as Head Editor this year. Outside of school, Wetmore enjoys tutoring kids and reading all types of books, although her secret joy is designing merch pieces for The Sentry. When she gets the chance to write, investigative news is her favorite genre of article.

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