Morganton, North Carolina, the county seat of Burke County, is now a two-paper town. The nonprofit The Paper proudly reports local news online and in a weekly, Saturday-home-delivery, 30-plus-page full-color print product.
Founder and Publisher Allen VanNoppen is no stranger to news media, having spent his first years out of college as a reporter for the then family-owned local newspaper of record, The Morganton News Herald, and later at the nearby Greensboro (NC) News & Record. Continuing to write a weekly syndicated column, he left his full-time work as a journalist in 1985 to enter the business world, eventually opening a local marketing agency his children now run. However, as he watched the News Herald be bought and sold over the years, finally being corporately downsized by Lee Enterprises, in August of 2022, he started Morganton Media Group, LLC (MMG) with a dba of The Paper.
The Paper's website states they’re a “blend of a registered LLC with nonprofit 501(c)3 fiscal sponsors.” And “will be owned by the community through tiered memberships" and "be led by an expert local Board of Directors.” So far, they have hired as their Editor-in-Chief Bill Poteat, a former editor & political reporter for The News Herald, along with others — bringing the newsroom count to eight.
In a recent press release announcing three new hires, The Paper claimed to be "Burke County’s only home-delivered, all-local print and digital newspaper." It also claimed, "The Paper was launched on Feb. 4, 2023, to fill a growing local news desert similar to those seen nationally. Sensational community response, including steady increases in advertising and circulation, coupled with charitable contributions, enabled the addition to the reporting staff.”
In this episode of "E&P Reports," we take you to Morganton, North Carolina, the county seat for Burke County, where Lee Enterprises' News Herald has been publishing for over 120 years. However, it is now a two-newspaper town, as The Paper, a local nonprofit, is in its 36th week of publishing both print and online. Appearing in the broadcast is Allen VanNoppen, The Paper’s founder and publisher, who speaks to why he decided to start a competing local printed product, how the business is going more than eight months in and what advice he gives to others who may want to start a local, nonprofit, digital and print news operation.
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