Newspaper sale finalized

Published 11:11 am Friday, September 3, 2010

Washington Newsmedia, LLC, an affiliate of Boone Newspapers, Inc. (BNI), with corporate offices in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Natchez, Miss., completed its purchase of the Washington Daily News from the Futrell family Wednesday.

Agreement in general for the sale was announced in June, and final details were worked out in recent weeks.

With the purchase, the Washington Daily News joins a BNI family that includes the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index.

The sale ends more than 60 years of operation by the Futrell family. The late Ashley B. Futrell became editor and publisher of the newspaper in 1949. Ashley B. “Brownie” Futrell Jr., who succeeded his father in the newspaper’s top leadership positions, retired Wednesday after 32 years with the family business. He will have an ownership interest in the newly formed Washington Newsmedia, LLC.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to continue my family’s stewardship of the Washington Daily News,” said Futrell. “We have been blessed and humbled by the many acts of kindness and support demonstrated to us over the years, and we will be forever grateful to the people of the Pamlico area. In Boone Newspapers, we have found a partner who shares our vision of community service and quality journalism and is committed to extending the legacy established by my father.”

Futrell will join his father on the newspaper’s masthead with the designation of editor and publisher emeritus. He will maintain his personal office in the Daily News building, and the Futrell family will continue ownership of The Ocracoker, a weekly publication serving Ocracoke Island.

Futrell is succeeded as publisher of the Daily News by Ray McKeithan, the newspaper’s associate publisher and general manager since 2001. McKeithan, as president and with an ownership interest in Washington Newsmedia, LLC, will be responsible for the company’s operations, consisting of the Daily News, The Scuppernong Reminder and the operation’s online products.

Majority owners of the newly formed company are BNI and its  president and chief operating officer, Todd H. Carpenter of Natchez, Miss. Futrell, McKeithan and BNI key personnel hold minority ownership.

Boone Newspapers owns and manages 37 newspapers in similar-sized communities in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, Ohio and Michigan.

James B. Boone, Jr., of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is BNI’s chairman and chief executive officer.

BNI has a rich history of quality newspapers and other publications in the communities it serves, explained in part by Boone’s corporate philosophy: “We seek to produce the highest quality product the economics of the community served can support. And then, by ingenuity and imagination, we strive for a higher quality in an effort to serve and build that community.”

Carpenter said he is “deeply appreciative of the confidence Brownie Futrell and his family have placed in us as their successors, and we will work hard to merit that confidence.”

Carpenter added: “We are pleased that Ray McKeithan has joined us as president and publisher. His steady leadership and knowledge of the community will be important to us during the transition and thereafter. We look forward to becoming a part of the community and will work hard to meet our every obligation to readers, customers, employees and all who have a stake in Washington.”

The Daily News marked its 100th year of publication in 2009. On April 13, 1990, it received the nation’s top journalism award, the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, for a series of articles written by Mike Voss and Betty Mitchell Gray on cancer-causing chemicals in the city’s water supply. Voss worked at the News-Herald in Ahoskie prior to moving to Washington.