The East Valley Tribune and the Ahwatukee Foothills News have been purchased by Steve Strickbine, CEO of Times Media Group, a local company which has several other publications. Strickbine, who says he bought the publications to “make two really solid papers even better,” will talk about his plans for the newspapers.
Ted Simons: The East Valley Tribune and the Ahwatukee Foothills News have a new owner. He is Steve Strickbine, CEO of Times Media Group, a local company that owns several other newspapers and magazines. Steve Strickbine joins us now to tell us why he bought the Trib and the Foothills News and his plans for the publications. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."
Steve Strickbine: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: So why did you buy these papers? Really, why did you do this?
Steve Strickbine: I get asked that quite often. We've been a company that's been a bit under the radar for quite a while here in the Valley. I guess because of all the publications that we have. I could say that it wasn't necessarily an unknown company but, you know, buying the Tribune has put us into a whole different realm there. But the reasoning was just that it was so complementary to our other publications, from a business standpoint, from a personal standpoint, I'm a valley resident my whole life. I live in the east valley and I really care about community news and the Tribune I think at this point in its history just represents a great opportunity for a company like ours to take advantage of that.
Ted Simons: Where is the Tribune at this point in its history? Where do you see it now? Where do you see it going?
Steve Strickbine: Well, we're going to be making changes and obviously, that's a process, that's not an event. But we have made some already. One significant one being that it's a Sunday paper. We've taken it back to it's a once a week Sunday edition and the thinking behind which is that that's the day of the week when we all have time to look at something and I think the Sunday paper used to really be an event. People carved out time on the weekend to read it. And we would like to get back to that at some point. We really want to tell the stories of the neighbors and the communities of the east valley. There's a million and a half people in the east valley and we feel like there's a lot of stories that are just frankly going untold at this point.
Ted Simons: As far as content is concerned. Harder news? Softer news? Long form? Short form?
Steve Strickbine: What you're going to see is more news on the website. So we'll be up to the minute, 24-hour news online. But in print you're going to see a lot more feature stories about the people of the East Valley. You're going to see things -- and I would just encourage anyone who hasn't picked it up in a while to do so, we've made some significant changes. But there are going to be stories that people look forward to, that they're not sure what to expect but that it's something that will be informative and bring value to them.
Ted Simons: People hear feature stories, we're going to run a story about a 105-year-old guy, but it's not holding anyone accountable or being the beacon for the community. Are you going to veer more towards that or away from that?
Steve Strickbine: It's going to be a balance and any good media company now is trying very hard to find that balance. I think that what you're a feature stories will do is tell a lot of the news, a lot of how the news is affecting people. So rather than necessarily report the news where you might read about that on the East Valley Tribune website or one of our other websites, you might read about an individual in the community and how that news is affecting them.
Ted Simons: Your philosophy. Is it to publish what readers want to know or is it to publish what readers need to know?
Steve Strickbine: I think it's both. I think that to some extent, readers don't often know what they want to read. So I think our job is to come up with creative, good, great story telling that can bring stories to them that they didn't necessarily know they wanted to read. If there's something that we feel like they need to know, it's our responsibility as a newspaper to bring that to them, as well.
Ted Simons: And the idea of the Tribune returning into its Pulitzer winning days. Possible?
Steve Strickbine: Sure. I wouldn't want to say that anything is impossible. I would say, though, that it's a process. I can tell you that when you take people who have been somewhat beat about the head by the business and you put them together -- in our company, I feel like the trib has been through a lot. A lot of the people there have. They got into the business for the same reason that they stay in the business now. That's because they're attracted to that storytelling. I think an inspired team can do a lot of things. I don't think we'll go out and win a Pulitzer but I would remind everyone that the Tribune did win that and they did win it for community journalism. I'm excited about that.
Steve Strickbine: When critics say newspapers they're a dying breed, it's the horse and buggy in the era of the car. And here you are buying a couple of newspapers.
Steve Strickbine: I'm behind my time, right?
Ted Simons: How do you respond to that?
Steve Strickbine: Well, you know, again there's opportunity I think where there's crisis. From a financial and business standpoint. I also think that somehow, a lot of these newspapers have pared back the three a little bit too far. There just isn't the kind of investment. There just isn't the inspired group of people behind it who really believe telling the stories of the community, and I think that when that comes together with a fairly good balance as we're talking about here, a good business philosophy that we have a lot of potential.
Ted Simons: And the potential I would imagine as well to really get local, and I mean like block by block local. Opportunity there?
Steve Strickbine: Well, you know, again, times media group has a company, we own several publications under the nearby news title. So we mail those to 100,000, nearly 100,000 homes a month right now. We reach the college market with the college times. We reach the senior market with Lovin' Life after 50. Our footprint is pretty large in the valley. So I do think that we'll -- absolutely, as much as possible.
Ted Simons: And as far as you, newspaper ownership. What got you into all of this?
Steve Strickbine: Just, you know, early on I was a CPA, I was looking for something else to do. I hated the work. And I decided if I was going to try something like this it would be need to be at that point so I tried by just starting a small community paper in Scottsdale and did everything from the editing to the selling the ads. And I really felt like it was a fun business. I was attracted to it. And I still am. It's still a very fun business and I still really enjoy the people and I enjoy being able to make a difference in the communities.
Ted Simons: It's still fun for you, even though again, the industry is hurting a little bit.
Steve Strickbine: It hasn't always been fun. It's had its peaks and valleys for sure.
Ted Simons: So again, Sunday paper online as far as the paper is concerned. Is the website updated what every day?
Steve Strickbine: Daily throughout the day. And so we will continue to have that going on and then Sunday hits 155,000 driveways in the east valley. So I encourage anyone who hasn't picked it up in a while to do so.
Ted Simons: It's good to have you here. Good luck to you.
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Steve Strickbine: CEO of Times Media Group