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Cox Keeps Dayton, Butler County And Springfield Newspapers In The Family

Scott Beale
Laughing Squid, Flickr Creative Commons

Update 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11: The Dayton Daily News newsroom will remain in the Cox Media Group building at 1611 S. Main St. in Dayton with WHIO-TV and WHIO-AM. But the newspaper staff will move to a different floor of the building, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Sandy Schwartz, president of Atlanta-based Cox Automotive, a division of Cox Enterprises Inc., said Monday while visiting the Dayton newspaper that there are no plans to eliminate local jobs, the paper reported.

Original post 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10: Family-owned Cox Enterprises is keeping Cox's three Ohio daily newspapers in the family.

Cox Enterprises Inc. announced Monday it will buy the Dayton Daily News, the Journal-News in Butler County and Springfield News-Sun so the papers can continue publishing daily. James M. Cox, who would later become governor of Ohio, bought the old Dayton Evening News in 1898.

Apollo Global Management will sell the papers to CEI, which continues to operate The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The deal is expected to close in the coming weeks.

"These newspapers are important assets to the communities they serve, and we are thrilled to have found a partner with a long and successful history of promoting freedom of the press and preserving print journalism," said Kim Guthrie, chief operating officer of Cox Media Group, which was acquired by the private equity firm in November.

Apollo paid $3.1-billion for Atlanta-based Cox Media Group, which owned 14 TV stations, including Dayton's WHIO-TV, plus the three Ohio newspapers and three radio stations.  At the time of the deal, a Federal Communications Commission rule had been re-instated prohibiting the "cross ownership" of television stations and daily newspapers in the same market. (The rule was not in effect when Cox Media Group announced the sale to Apollo a year ago.)

To satisfy the FCC, Apollo said in November it would reduce publishing to three days a week so the papers would no longer be daily newspapers. The FCC then granted Apollo a 60-day extension in November to find a buyer for the Ohio papers. It was extended again Jan. 16 through March 16.

Separating the 121-year-old Dayton Daily News from Apollo's WHIO TV/radio news operation won't be easy. Dayton print, broadcast and online journalists today work in the same newsroom at 1611 Main St., near the University of Dayton, and share their reporting on the various platforms.  The Journal-News has an office on Cincinnati-Dayton Road in Liberty Township near Lakota East High School; the News-Sun has an office at 137 E. Main St. in Springfield.

The announcement did not say if the newspaper will continue to operate in the Cox Media Group building on Main Street.

Rob Rohr, listed as "market vice president and publisher" in today's paper, will become Dayton market vice president and general manager leading Cox Media Group's WHIO-TV and three radio stations, WHIO-AM, WHKO-FM and WZLR-FM.

Jane Collier, listed as "vice president of content" in today's paper, will "serve as interim executive editor" following the sale of the papers, according to the media release. Collier "is a seasoned media veteran with more than 20 years of experience and started her career with Cox in 2006 as the managing editor of the Dayton Daily News," the release says.

With the sale of its Cox Media Group TV stations to Apollo, Cox Enterprise's major operating subsidiaries are Cox Communications and Cox Automotive.  It's a "a global company with $21 billion in annual revenues and brands that include Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book and Cox Homelife." CEI also has strategic investments in "new industries and emerging technologies, with sizeable interests in clean technology and health care."

James M. Cox from tiny Jacksonburg, Ohio, west of Middletown, bought the Dayton Evening News in 1898, and then added the Springfield Press-Republic in 1905, and The Atlanta Constitution in 1950. He started WHIO-AM in 1935, and added Atlanta's WSB-TV in 1948. Cox twice served as Ohio governor (1913-1915; 1917-21), and was the Democratic Party nominee for U.S. president in 1920.

The television, newspaper, radio and digital businesses were combined into Cox Media Group in 2009.

David Sambur, co-lead partner of private equity at Apollo Global Management thanked the FCC for its cooperation.

"When faced with the unfortunate requirements of an antiquated regulation, we would not accept an outcome that reduced local news coverage for the people of Dayton, Springfield and Butler County. We applaud the FCC for working with us and providing us the flexibility to find a stable, long-term buyer who is committed to providing the citizens of Ohio with award winning journalism," Sambur says in the announcement.

CEI "shares our belief that a reduced print schedule would negatively impact the papers, our employees and the communities," says Cox Media Group's Guthrie. "CEI is the best possible partner for this sale to not only ensure continued daily print publication for the newspapers, but to also keep so many talented people doing what they do best—providing daily news coverage in our Ohio communities."

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John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.