WILKES-BARRE — Our role is to report the news and tell other people’s stories. This is a story about us, however, and we are proud to tell it.
As we were pleased to announce just over a week ago, the Times Leader Media Group has been purchased by Avant Publications, a collaborative effort formed by two newspaper veterans, Scott Champion and Andrew Mok. They are working with several other experienced media professionals, including Luzerne County native Nick DeLorenzo, who began his career here at the Times Leader.
Our offices on East Market Street are also filled with newspaper veterans, many of whom have dedicated decades of service to this organization and to Wyoming Valley readers.
The vast majority are Northeastern Pennsylvania natives. They are folks who have been through changes of management and ownership, as well as great changes in this community and in our industry.
When news of the sale was relayed to us that Friday — and after we all heard from Champion, Mok and DeLorenzo — the atmosphere in our newsroom was more upbeat than I have seen it in years.
Talking with colleagues in other departments, the feeling was much the same: Enthusiasm, optimism — and yes, relief about the future of the Times Leader.
We believe passionately in what we do. We believe that our new owners do, too — and that they are eager to support us and invest in this business for the good of the community.
Here, in their own words, are the thoughts of several Times Leader Media Group staffers from around the building about the ownership transition and about why they are proud to come to work here every day.
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The significance of this event is widespread and cannot be downplayed.
To you, our readers, this change solidifies our commitment to provide you the most relevant and timely coverage, remaining true to our mission, a mission that has been in place for over 100 years. A mission that all of our professional journalists sincerely believe in.
To our employees this change is a strong acknowledgement of the hard work and effort that every employee puts forth every day to serve you. The fact that all employees were asked to stay on with the company sends the clear message that our new ownership respects what we do and how we do it.
To those our many loyal advertisers this change means we will continue to give you what ask for, results. Our team of dedicated advertising specialists will continue to work with you every step of the way to insure that whether you use one or all of our many available products, the Times Leader Media Group works!
To the communities we serve our involvement and commitment will continue to be strong and supportive. Community engagement has and will be, the cornerstone of what we do. We believe strongly that it is our responsibility as the senior news leader in the area to become an integral part of everything we can.
On a personal note I want to say thank you to our new ownership. They have already shown their support and I could not ask for more. This company has not seen private ownership in decades and while the trend in the industry is for companies to sell out to a capital management firm or a hedge fund company, our new owners have decided there is a future in this business and we represent that future to them.
We are proud to serve you. We are here to stay.
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Kerry O’Neil Miscavage,
Vice President of Sales and Marketing
“Yes, we are excited for the future of this paper,” Miscavage said.
“In my 23 years, we’ve never been owned privately so I am certainly looking forward to sharing the decades of newspaper experience we all have and shaping it towards what our community needs now and in the future,” she added. “Regardless of past ownership, we’ve always had a knack for thriving on an internal family vibe and have stuck together. Now, that vibe will be coming from the top!”
“We have worked with Scott, Andrew and Nick for several years so we are thrilled to have owners and team that want to further our dedication to our community,” Miscavage said. “We have lots of good things to come for our readers and advertisers, stay tuned!”
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In his 30 years with the Times Leader, Soprano has at one time or another occupied almost every possible role in sports and news. He was promoted to the top position in 2017, leading the news, sports, features and photo teams.
“There really is no greater honor than to do a job that you love, for your entire hometown to see, day after day, at a newspaper you grew up reading,” Soprano said.
“I’ve been proud to spend three decades at the Times Leader, and I believe this sale will only bring good things for our paper and the hardworking people here who have given so many years to the company,” he added.
“I believe this is not just a benefit for the Times Leader, but for the Wyoming Valley.”
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“Having new owners who know about newspapers and are invested in the employees is a huge relief for myself and others here at the Times Leader,” said Tinner, who has been with the company for 17 years.
“The staff felt a weight was lifted off their shoulders with the new owners the first day they were here,” Tinner said. “They care about their employees and the community and that’s something that hasn’t happened in a while.”
“I’m proud to say I work for the Times Leader and I’m looking to have 17 more years of with the new owners,” Tinner added.
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Circulation Operations Manager
“I have always been proud to say I work for the Times Leader,” said Andres, who has 22 years of service with the paper.
“When the new owners came in to speak to us they made sure to let us know how important we all were to them. The combined experience they have in the newspaper business will have an amazing impact on us as a team and in the community.”
“We are here to stay and I look forward to watching our success continue,” Andres added.
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Mary Therese Biebel,
Biebel is a 38-year employee who arrived for a college internship in 1981 and never left.
“When our new leaders spoke to the newsroom and said they love newspapers and that they were grateful to us for, basically, hanging in through some tough times, I could feel my eyes filling with grateful tears,” Biebel said. “It’s so nice to be appreciated — and it feels so good to team up with someone who loves what we love.”
Biebel, whose passion for arts and entertainment writing shines through each day, also saw the moment in decidely theatrical terms.
“Afterward, I said to a co-worker, ‘If this was a musical, this is where we’d start singing and dancing for joy,’” she recalled.
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Classified Advertising Manager
Byrnes, who has been with the paper for 28 years, said the Times Leader “has always been community-oriented and has excellent journalism which is important to me.”
“I have always loved working for the Times Leader, everyone works as a team and strives to make the Times Leader the very best,” she said. “I know the future holds great things for the Times Leader, which I am very proud of.”
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”I am glad that we were acquired by people that understand the newspaper business and are willing to put money back into the paper and the community,” said Coolbaugh, who has been with the paper for 25 years.
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Marc D. Aguirre Couchot,
“My faith in the new ownership is so high, I’m moving my family to Wilkes-Barre after working remotely the past couple of years,” said Couchot, who has six years of experience with the paper.
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Luzerne County Government Reporter
Learn-Andes, who started working for the Times Leader fresh out of Wilkes University in 1991, said the announcement of investment by professionals committed to journalism was a “huge relief.”
She said she and many of her colleagues have roots here and genuinely care about informing readers on government activity and other matters.
“There are still many stories to tell and decisions to dissect, and it would not benefit this region to silence our coverage,” said Learn-Andes.
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Police and Courts Reporter
Lewis, a veteran local news reporter, also has done two tours of duty at the paper, with a dozen years total to his credit at the Times Leader. Lewis’ return in 2017 after two years away was greatly appreciated by his colleagues, and greatly resented by competitors who have to keep up with him.
“It’s a thrill to walk into the Times Leader newsroom first thing in the morning having the great responsibility of reporting the news to the public,” Lewis said.
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“I’ve been fortunate enough to be employed by the Times Leader for over 21 years,” said McGee.
“Listening to our new owners brought about an excitement within our entire team as they expressed their passion for both print and digital and their enthusiasm to be part of such a great community,” she added. “Newspapers are in their blood and I couldn’t be more excited for the future of our paper!”
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Major Accounts Executive/Digital Strategist
McGinley, who handles the national advertising accounts and oversee digital programs, was a writer with the paper from 2007 to 2010, and returned two years ago after seven years working for digital marketing agencies.
“I returned because I believed in the mission of the paper and the people who work here,” McGinley said.
“I think the new ownership will only help us improve our offerings both in print and online. It’s terrific that leaders with backgrounds in technology and news content want to help us grow,” he said. “It feels like the beginning of a long, exciting journey with endless possibility.”
McGinley pointed to a performance marketing team and suite of products that allows the Times Leader to assist local advertisers in targeting their customers and bring new business through doors every day.
“When people in the community call me for marketing advice, I’m glad to tell them about our products, our reach and the ways we can help,” McGinley added. “We’ve got more to offer than ever before.”
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Reporter and Columnist
“It is refreshing to now be owned by a newspaper group,” said O’Boyle, a longtime local journalist who has been with the Times Leader for nearly 13 years.
“Our new owners gave us all many reasons to feel good about our future. They recognize the need for a community newspaper and they are aware of what all that means,” he said.
“For 112 years now, the Times Leader has been here for this community and we are certain that we will be here for many years to come,” O’Boyle added.