Cooke Communications, the company that owns the Key West Citizen, floridakeys.com and Free Press weekly newspapers throughout the Florida Keys, is expanding its commitment to print journalism, and has finalized negotiations with Cox Enterprises to buy three daily and 10 weekly newspapers in the Greenville area of eastern North Carolina.
John Kent Cooke, owner of Cooke Communications LLC, was in North Carolina Monday to announce the acquisition with his two sons, John Kent Cooke Jr. and Tom Cooke.
Cooke Jr., who has been publisher of The Citizen since his family bought the paper in 2000, will move to North Carolina with his wife and daughter to take over as publisher of The Daily Reflector, and manage the newly formed North Carolina division of Cooke Communications.
Tom Cooke has been CEO of the family's Internet company, floridakeys.com, since 2000. He will remain in Key West in that position, and also become president of the Florida division of Cooke Communications.
Paul Clarin, who has been chief financial officer of the Key West-based company since 2001, will succeed Cooke Jr. as publisher of The Citizen.
A commitment to local news vital to local readers marks the Cooke family's focus.
"Newspapers are not dead. They're not even ill," John Kent Cooke said Monday in a statement announcing the acquisition. "I'm not worried in the least about the future of this business, particularly here in North Carolina. It's going to be difficult at times, but we will be successful because we have the same attitude that the Cox people have, and that is we're going to concentrate on our local news."
The Daily Reflector, The Daily Advance and the Rocky Mount Telegram are the daily, community newspapers that have joined the Cooke Communications newspaper group. John Kent Cooke said he anticipates retaining "virtually all employees" of the North Carolina newspapers.
"As far as our philosophy, as my father said, it is local, local, local," Cooke Jr. told staff at The Daily Reflector on Monday. "We need to write and publish the news local readers want to know, that they need to know."
Cooke Jr.'s media experience includes work as a reporter at the Fauquier Times Democrat in Warrenton, Va., as well as at the Steamboat Pilot and Today, both in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He also was director of marketing and stadium operations for the Washington Redskins in the 1990s.
Tom Cooke graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography in San Diego, Calif., and worked for AOL in Washington, D.C., before becoming CEO of his family's Internet company, floridakeys.com.
John Kent Cooke previously was part owner of the Los Angeles Daily News, the Washington Redskins and the Chrysler Building in New York City. Most recently, he founded Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Va.
In addition to The Daily Reflector, the Rocky Mount Telegram and The Daily Advance, Cooke Communications acquired the following non-daily publications, all in eastern North Carolina:
Beaufort-Hyde News (Belhaven), Bertie-Ledger Advance (Windsor), The Chowan Herald (Edenton), Duplin Times (Kenansville), The Enterprise (Williamston), Farmville Enterprise, Perquimans Weekly (Elizabeth City), Standard Laconic (Snow Hill), Times-Leader (Ayden-Grifton) and Weekly Herald (Robersonville).