Changes are coming to the family-owned Rome Sentinel Company.
Saturday, Nov. 28, will be the last Daily Sentinel printed at the Rome Sentinel Co. office on 333 W. Dominick St.
Starting with the Tuesday, Dec. 1 newspaper, the Rome Sentinel Co. will be partnering with another family newspaper, Johnson Newspaper Corporation, to handle the printing and inserting of all Rome Sentinel Co. products, says Bradley Waters, sixth-generation publisher of the Daily Sentinel, who took over that position from his father, Stephen B. Waters, in October 2019.
The Waters family has held the newspaper in stewardship for the community since the mid 1800s.
“This transition is something we have been trying to avoid for years. Having flexibility of running our own press whenever you want, however you want, is a game changer. However, this flexibility doesn’t justify the cost of operating it,” Waters said. “We must have a sustainable business model in order to continue to deliver local, reliable community news.”
In terms of changes readers will see, Waters said all subscription prices will remain the same. The single copy rack and vending prices of the Saturday edition of the Daily Sentinel will increase to $2, up from $1. In December we will also be launching a Saturday only home delivery subscription option.
“We consistently strive to be the lowest-priced newspaper,” Waters said. Although work deadlines will change for newspaper staff, readers will receive their newspapers at the usual time.
With the interest of keeping the print work with another New York family, the Daily Sentinel will be printed by the Johnson Newspaper Corp. at its Watertown facility, say Waters and Alec Johnson, CEO of Johnson Newspapers and publisher of the Watertown Daily Times.
Johnson is the fourth generation of his family to helm the business that includes ownership of an assortment of daily and weekly publications as well as contract printing work for other publications - now to include the Daily Sentinel and Boonville Herald.
For Waters and Johnson, keeping the print production at a family-owned business is key. For them, family-owned papers are a true reflection of family and community in terms of content and investments.
“The Waters family has put their trust in us,” Johnson said. “There’s only so many family-owned papers in the area.”
For almost 50 years, the presses have been running at the 333 W. Dominick site, supporting the community’s downtown development during Urban Renewal. The Sentinel Office was at 136 N. James St. for 65 years until the reconstruction of Fort Stanwix in 1971. Before that, the Sentinel hung its shingle where the Fort Visitors Center is located, at the former Arlington Hotel, at the northwest corner of the intersection of James St. and the Erie Canal, and several other locations back into the 1840s.
The cost-savings outsourced printing is just step one. A move to a new office on the Griffiss Business Park is also on the horizon.
Currently, about 50 newspaper staff members work in an almost 26,000 square foot office at 333 West Dominick. In January, they will transition to a more right-sized space — a 6,400 square foot office at 111 Langley Road owned by Roberts Office Interiors.
“The current Rome Sentinel location was part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative back in the early 1970s to grow West Dominick Street by building our current 333 building and the 301 building, which is currently the Rome DMV,” Waters said, adding that moving to a new growth location in Rome is exciting as the city continues its shared experience of re-birth in all corners.
What’s more is that the transitions will help the newspaper maintain a stable, profitable business in the wake of pandemic-induced economic disruption now, and safeguard against future unknowns, Waters said.
“With these tough times to be in a family local media company, we must be profitable to supply local news. Like any business, without profitability, we close our doors or get bought out by a larger, national company. The Waters family will do everything it can to prevent a Gannett or Digital First Media-like company to take over our city,” referring to large, corporate chains that own a lion’s share of media properties in the United States.
Waters said the changes will help the Daily Sentinel invest in more local news coverage in cities of Rome, Utica, Oneida and surrounding areas.
“Our coverage also includes Madison and Lewis counties. Instead of money going toward press supplies, maintenance and insurance, it will go toward journalism and growing our coverage area,” he said.