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Trib Total Media finds Pa. buyer for daily newspapers in Kittanning, Connellsville, 6 weeklies

| Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, 10:15 a.m.
The Clark Building on Pittsburgh's North Side.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Clark Building on Pittsburgh's North Side.

Trib Total Media has agreed to sell two daily newspapers and six weeklies to West Penn Media, company officials announced Friday.

West Penn, an affiliate of Sample Media Group based in Huntingdon, Pa., will take over operation of The Leader Times in Kittanning and the Daily Courier in Connellsville, both published Monday through Saturday, and these weeklies: The Dispatch in Blairsville, The Mt. Pleasant Journal, The Independent-Observer in Scottdale, The Ligonier Echo, The Times-Sun in West Newton and The Jeannette Spirit. The sale is expected to be completed by Dec. 31. Terms were not disclosed.

“Selling these papers was part of a larger strategic plan for the growth of Trib Total Media that includes a more focused newspaper footprint in Western Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Bertetto, president and CEO of Trib Total Media. “We are pleased that a highly respected media company with strong Pennsylvania roots will be taking the helm. We are confident that the newspapers, and the communities they serve, will be in good hands.”

The company is looking for buyers for two other daily papers, The Valley Independent in Monessen and The Daily News in McKeesport.

In late August, Trib Total Media announced that it intended to sell the four dailies and the Laurel Group of weeklies, while continuing to publish the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, the Valley News Dispatch in Tarentum and numerous weekly newspapers in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

The company offered buyouts to 430 employees at operations that were not up for sale, with the anticipation that about 75 would accept. Bertetto said 40 percent of the eligible staff requested details of their individual buyout offer. They have until Thursday to accept.

Bertetto said West Penn is expected to offer jobs to most workers at the papers it is acquiring. She said workers who do not receive a job offer from the new owner will be eligible for a severance package providing one week of base pay for every year of full-time service if they remain employed through Dec. 31.

Bertetto said Trib Total Media will continue to evolve once the sale is completed.

“We have additional plans that we will unveil in the coming months that will better position us to meet the needs of our subscribers, advertisers, partners and employees,” she said. “These plans include investments that will enhance our digital offerings and allow us to deliver the news where, when and how our readers would like to receive it.”

Sample Media Group owns more than 50 publications, including 15 daily news­papers, in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“We are excited to add these eight newspapers to our portfolio,” said George “Scoop” Sample III, president of Sample Media. “All of these publications have a long history of being trusted sources of local and regional news for the community. We are committed to carrying that legacy forward.”

Pennsylvania dailies already part of Sample Media include the Latrobe Bulletin, Gettysburg Times and Bedford Gazette. In August, Sample agreed to buy Towanda Printing Co., which includes daily, weekly and monthly publications serving a five-county area of Northeast Pennsylvania and South Central New York.

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