Cape Gazette stays local with sale to co-publisher

Good afternoon,

One of the few remaining raging newspapers in Delaware has changed hands but will remain under local ownership.

Cape Town Gazette Founders, Publisher Dennis Forney and Editor-in-Chief Trish Vernon announced today that the journal and website are now owned by Chris Rousch, who serves as co-editor. Terms were not disclosed.

Forney is heading for the east coast.

Forney spent a lot of time in his hometown of Chestertown on the east coast of Maryland. Vernon remained firmly in charge of the newsroom and served as co-editor until recently.

Forney is now writing an Eastern Shore version of his popular ““Barefoot” column which explores the history, issues and curiosities of the region.

The three decades old Cape Town Gazette is a relative newcomer to Delaware newspapers and comes with an interesting history.

Vernon and Forney held the top two spots at The Whale, a bi-weekly owned by Independent Newspapers, publisher of the daily Delaware State News in Dover and various weeklies in Maryland, Florida and Arizona.

The Whale was a thriving operation that sent a few thousand newspapers a week to second home owners who lived in the Washington, DC area.

Then came the Daily Whale

Independent, seeing signs of growth on the Sussex coast, made the ill-advised decision to turn the paper into a daily. The Daily Whale’s life was brief as it suffered from an embarrassing lack of publicity and then folded.

Vernon and Forney left Independent and founded the Cape Town Gazette, which stayed true to the original whale formula. They rode the Coastal Sussex wave of development and later expanded the Whale to twice a week.

The newspaper excels in daily coverage of businesses and public meetings while also publishing free obituaries, pledges, and more. So far the Cape Town Gazette did not place local news behind a paywall for subscribers.

While maintaining a paid subscription model, the Cape Town Gazette also has free distribution posts that capture additional publicity.

With the rise of online publishing in the early 2000s, chains saw weeklies as a refuge from a steep decline in print advertising, and many owners cashed in.

Hold on when the buyers came calling

Local Dover Post Co., a statewide network of weeklies, was sold to Gatehouse. Owner of the Newark Post Chesapeake Publishing was purchased by a radio station operator funded by Australian financial conglomerate Macquarie which owns toll roads and insurance company Lincoln Financial in the United States.

Vernon and Forney held their ground and did not sell.

the Cape Town Gazette was not immune to the near-collapse of print advertising that followed, but fared better than most, thanks to local connections and readership loyalty that evaporated in other weeklies as new channel owners cut costs and staff.

Most state weeklies are now owned by Newspaper and (Salisbury) Daily schedules owner Gannett, which merged with Gatehouse a few years ago.

Signs of change preceded the sale.

Prior to the announcement of the property, there had been signs of change at the Cape Town Gazette in the form of more impactful editorials that question the county’s uncontrolled growth and praise the development of wind power off the coasts of Delaware and Maryland.

Printing still faces challenges, but the Cape Gazette isn’t burdened with an out-of-town, out-of-touch printing company and property that ships key functions elsewhere.

Vernon and Forney have the merit of having kept the Cape Town Gazette under local ownership, and many of us will be rooting for the new owner to “stay local”. – Doug Rainey, Content Director.

(The author has held business editor positions at Chesapeake Publishing and Independent Newspapers now Independent Newsmedia USA)