by Kimberly Rivers

At the end of the work day on Wednesday, July 31, staff of the Ventura County Reporter were notified that the paper, along with most of the assets of parent company Southland Publishing, had been sold to Times Media Group (TMG), a Tempe, Arizona-based company.

The announcement came as a surprise to the team of 11 employees, some who have been with the paper for over two decades and were now told, effective immediately, that they had a new employer.

“It was definitely a surprise, but I felt reassured when I was told that this was an investment in community news and when the new owner referred to Southland publications as ‘special journalism,’ ” said Michael Sullivan, managing editor of the VC Reporter for the past 11 years. “Unlimited potential, that’s all I can envision.”

So far the only announced staffing change at the Reporter is the departure of David Comden, vice president of Southland Publishing. Comden had been with the company for more than two decades. TMG representatives said it was too soon to comment on plans about replacing him.

“Local news weeklies and magazines continue to be a vital part of each community they serve,” said Comden. 

TMG representatives said this was the first purchase outside of Arizona for the company, and as of now there are no plans for staffing changes at the VC Reporter.

TMG owns 15 Arizona-based publications and digital brands. “The Southland publications have always been special in their connection with the communities they serve. We can’t wait to further solidify that connection and do even more to demonstrate our commitment to our readers, our advertisers and our neighbors,” said Steve Strickbine, owner of Times Media Group.

Steve Strickbine, owner of Times Media Group.

Southland Publishing, founded in 1997, has five offices located in Downtown Los Angeles, Downtown Ventura, Santa Monica, Pasadena and San Diego. The TMG purchase includes all five newsweeklies: the LA Downtown News, the Pasadena Weekly, The Argonaut, the VC Reporter and the San Diego City Beat. Additionally, TMG has purchased Southland’s three monthly magazines: Arroyo Monthly, Playa Vista Direct and Ventana Monthly. Southland’s associated digital properties are also included in the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Southland Publishing and I have been very proud of these publications, and our employees who have made them such important parts of the communities they serve, and we are confident that Steve Strickbine and his company will be wonderful stewards of these publications and that the readers and advertisers that continue to support them are in good hands,” said Southland Publishing President Bruce Bolkin.

“For years, I’ve heard the conventional wisdom about local news being dead — and I couldn’t disagree more,” said Strickbine. “We have always bet against that idea as a company we’ve been very successful doing it. Is it easy to do? Of course not. We need to work harder and be smarter than the big metro newspapers, to show aspects of the communities we cover that matter to readers and too often get ignored. We also need to offer better, more engaging advertising opportunities to our advertisers. If we do that, we have every opportunity to succeed. And the communities we serve will be the better for it.”