Wyatt Emmerich has added another chapter to the family newspaper-publishing legacy.
Last month, Emmerich, a third-generation newspaperman, added to his burgeoning publishing empire three Mississippi community newspapers and a shopper’s guide: Winston County Journal in Louisville, The Choctaw Plain Dealer in Ackerman, Webster Progress-Times of Eupora and Red Hills Shopper’s Guide.
“Weekly newspapers serve an important role in their communities,” said Emmerich, president of Jackson-based Emmerich Newspapers Inc. “Our goal is to make them the best possible newspapers that their market can support. My company specializes in community newspapers, and we think we do a good job in serving the communities.”
The Emmerich publishing family began as something of a fluke. Emmerich’s grandfather, Oliver Emmerich, was a county agent during the Depression years when the McComb Enterprise asked him to pen a column about his job. He discovered that it was easier to write about the job than do it, so he bought the newspaper and moved his career into a different direction.
Emmerich’s father, John Emmerich, fell in love with the newspaper business at an early age, long before publishing conglomerates ruled the dailies. After serving as news editor of The Baltimore Sun and editorial page director of The Houston Chronicle, the elder Emmerich bought The Greenwood Commonwealth in 1973 for $1 million.
While in high school, Wyatt Emmerich worked in the darkrooms after school and occasionally wrote stories for the community newspaper. One summer, he sold a record number of newspaper subscriptions door to door. He was voted Most Likely To Succeed in his 1976 graduating class from Greenwood High School and earned an economics degree from Harvard University, where he was editor of the Harvard Crimson and interned at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
After working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Cocoa, Fla., and The Dallas Times Herald, and attending business school at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Emmerich returned to Mississippi to take the reins of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper that his dad had acquired. Emmerich was named publisher in 1985.
Not quite ready to settle down, Emmerich took time off to journey to Australia and work as a senior analyst for strategic planning at the New York Times Company and a newspaper advisor for Merrill Lynch. He returned home to help run the family business after his dad bought the local Clarksdale newspaper.
In 1995, Emmerich’s dad died suddenly following complications from a heart attack, leaving his son with a collection of Mississippi community newspapers.
Since then, Emmerich has grown the business to include four dailies and 19 weeklies in Mississippi, two weeklies in Louisiana, and a weekly in Arkansas. Total circulation is 180,000, with paid circulation of 110,000.
“Generally, if you run them right, community newspapers can be stable properties,” said Emmerich. “The franchise is local news. There aren’t many vehicles for local news in smaller towns, yet people want to know what’s going on in their community.”
Newspaper veteran and Mississippi native John Walker had been named the new publisher of the Louisville-based operation, but Walker had taken his career in a different direction, and at press time, Emmerich could not disclose the name of the newly-hired publisher.
Emmerich’s newspapers are printed on presses in Greenville, Greenwood and McComb. Half of the presses in Greenwood and McComb have been recently replaced, and Emmerich is in the process of upgrading the printing equipment in Greenville.
“We’ve traded our black-and-white units for color units, and we plan to eventually go all color,” said Emmerich. “We’re improving our printing quality, doing more and better color.”
Emmerich said he’s not concerned about increased competition for advertising dollars, especially from the Internet, which has not done well on a local basis.
“The consolidation of retail — Wal-Mart and other big chains — has made it challenging for local newspapers,” he said. “We simply have to operate more efficiently and figure out new ways of doing things.”
Choctaw Plain Dealer
Clarke County Tribune
Clarksdale Press Register
DeSoto County Tribute
Greenville Delta Democrat Times
Rankin County Record
Simpson County News
Scott County Times
Times of South Mississippi
Winston County Journal
— SOURCE: Emmerich Newspapers Inc.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Jeter at email@example.com.