In this week’s issue… WITF gets a newspaper – WINS legend to sign off – Pirate landlord crackdown in NYC, NJ – Syndie show comes to Pittsburgh
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*There are few families with roots as deep and as long in local journalism as the Steinmans of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was all the way back in 1866 when Andrew Jackson Steinman became editor and publisher of the Lancaster Intelligencer, the start of a media empire that added the Lancaster New Era and Sunday News in the 1920s.
The next generations of Steinmans expanded into broadcasting in 1929 with the launch of WGAL radio in Lancaster, followed 20 years later by WGAL-TV. For the next three decades, the family built a small but nationwide TV empire, adding WTEV (now WLNE) in New Bedford, Mass. as well as KVOA in Tucson and KOAT in Albuquerque, a familiar station group to anyone who saw their decades of ads on the front cover of the Broadcasting Yearbook.
After selling the TV stations to Pulitzer during the 1960s and 1970s, the Steinmans stayed in the newspaper business in Lancaster, adding weekly papers in Lititz and Ephrata, the Lancaster Farming newspaper and a printing business to the Lancaster papers, which merged in 2014 as “LNP” (short for “Lancaster NewsPaper.”)
Now, after 157 years in the business, the Steinman family is reuniting the newspaper with broadcasting, in an innovative way: it’s donating LNP, along with the weekly papers in Lititz and Ephrata, to central Pennsylvania’s public broadcaster, WITF.
As the daily newspaper business continues to struggle, LNP isn’t the first paper to end up in public media hands: Chicago’s WBEZ acquired the Sun-Times there last year, Dallas’ KERA is buying the Denton Record-Chronicle to its north, and Rochester’s WXXI acquired the then-weekly City in 2019, converting it to a monthly during the pandemic.
The WITF/LNP combination will be headed by WITF CEO Ron Hetrick, but will retain LNP’s existing staff, its focus on Lancaster County (one portion of WITF’s sprawling coverage area extending to York, Harrisburg and beyond), its headquarters in Lancaster and its seven-day print schedule, with Steinman’s Susquehanna Printing continuing to produce the paper. (Steinman will also keep Lancaster Farming).
The donation comes with funding to keep LNP in operation for the next few years in its new form as a public benefit corporation, though an exact amount hasn’t been disclosed. The Steinman family’s Steinman Foundation will establish a new Steinman Institute for Civic Engagement, with a commitment to advancing journalism “through the professional development of journalists, innovation, community engagement, and community-focused education initiatives.”
It will be business as usual at WITF’s Harrisburg headquarters, where the news programming on WITF-FM and the PBS programming on WITF-TV will continue. WITF says it’s hoping to be able to offer businesses the opportunity to combine WITF underwriting with LNP advertising, as well as to be able to share content between the two operations. And while WITF initially says it will continue LNP as a Lancaster-focused operation, it’s certainly worth noting that Harrisburg lost its daily paper when Advance Publications cut the Patriot-News back to three days a week in 2013, leaving a void that we could imagine WITF filling eventually.
Is there a future to more such newspaper donations? It seems likely that the Steinman family will reap substantial tax benefits from their donation, while most other struggling or dying papers around the region are owned by non-family corporations such as Gannett and MediaNews Group that would have less of an incentive to donate their papers. (There’s also an argument to be made that venture capital ownership has already hollowed out many papers to the point where they’re too far gone for public media to try to save.)
The donation of LNP to WITF is slated to be complete in June, and of course we’ll be watching closely (and hopefully, talking with Ron Hetrick on our podcast) to find out how it proceeds and what other public media operations might learn from the experience.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND….
It’s the annual Tower Site Calendar!
This is the 23rd edition of our popular wall calendar, featuring gorgeous full-color photos of tower and transmitter sites from around the country, and sometimes the world. Our photos capture the sites throughout the day and throughout the year.
This makes a great gift for the tower enthusiast in your life — or a special treat for yourself!
Because it’s not yet off the press, we’re offering a pre-production price of $20. Once the calendar is printed, the price will go up to our regular price of $21.
Don’t wait – order yours today!
We have the Radio Historian’s Calendar again this year, too. There are only 25 in stock and they sell fast, so don’t wait to order.