Northeast Alabama newspaper cluster sold

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For the first time in more than 60 years, The Times-Journal of Fort Payne, Ala., has new ownership.

Patrick Graham, who previously served as the managing editor of The Times-Journal from 1996 to 2000, has purchased the newspaper and its related products from the Walls Family and Southern Newspapers, Inc. of Houston, Texas. Southern, which continues to own and operate 12 newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma, had owned The Times-Journal since 1956.

In addition, Graham acquired The Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro and The Sand Mountain Reporter in Albertville, sister papers to The Times-Journal, from Southern as part of the same purchase agreement.

Cribb, Greene & Cope, under the direction of John Cribb and Senior Associate Jeffrey Potts, represented the seller in the transaction.

Graham also owns The Walton Tribune, a twice-weekly newspaper in Monroe, Ga., and The Covington News, a weekly newspaper in Covington, Ga. 

"I started my career in newspaper management right here in Fort Payne and DeKalb County," Graham said. "I have so many great personal and professional memories associated with my family's time in this tremendous community. I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to return to the area as the newspaper's owner and reconnect with old friends, make new ones and work hard on behalf of both in order to uphold the legacy of community service and quality local journalism established at The Times-Journal by the Walls Family and Southern for so many years."

Lissa Walls, chairman and owner of Southern Newspapers, said the company has a 63-year association with Fort Payne and DeKalb County that has been enjoyable and profitable, and the company is very appreciative of that long-standing relationship.

"The opportunity to be stewards and managers of the newspaper in Fort Payne has been a privilege and responsibility Southern Newspapers and the Walls family has taken seriously," Walls said.

"As a native of Guntersville, my interest and concern for Northeast Alabama runs deep. I am pleased the ownership transition is from one family and community-focused operator to another. Patrick Graham is an experienced and proven newspaper operator. His history of living and working in Northeast Alabama make him ideally suited to lead DeKalb County into a bright future."

Graham's newspapers in Georgia have been consistently recognized by the Georgia Press Association for the quality local coverage they have provided their communities during Graham's time as owner. Graham said the staff at The Times-Journal has been providing an award-winning effort for its readers and advertisers for many years, and he is now ready to help staff members take an already great product to the next level.

"Simply put, I want to put out the very best newspaper of its size in the state of Alabama. The kind of newspaper that readers will absolutely have to pick up because they feel like they might be missing something if they don't," Graham said. "We have a community that deserves that kind of quality coverage, and we have the kind of staff that can deliver that kind of quality coverage."

Graham said community newspapers like The Times-Journal are succeeding while others in the industry are struggling because community newspapers continue to focus on local coverage, and he plans to increase that local emphasis even more moving forward.

"Community newspapers have been able to stay relevant in the lives of readers by providing information about the community that readers can't get anywhere else," Graham said. "That is why the platform readers are consuming the information in – whether it is print, online or mobile – isn't as important as the type of information they are consuming, and time and again readers are telling us they want local, local, local.

"As a local, independently-owned newspaper, that is exactly what we intend to give them."

Graham is a 28-year veteran of the newspaper industry. He spent 17 of those years with Southern, the last 11 operating newspapers of various sizes as publisher. He purchased his first newspaper, The Walton Tribune, in 2014, and his second, The Covington News, in 2017. He had previously spent six years (2003-2009) as the publisher at The Tribune.

Graham and his wife, Allison, have been married for 25 years. Both were born and raised in Huntsville and are graduates of the University of Alabama, with Patrick getting his degree in 1991 and Allison hers in 1992.

The couple has three daughters, Madison, 24, who was born in Huntsville; Tabitha, 21, who was born in Fort Payne; and AnnaBelle, 17, who was born in Boaz. Daughters Madison and Tabitha work with Graham at The Walton Tribune.

Cribb, Greene & Cope is a 96-year-old newspaper brokerage and appraisal firm with offices in Montana, Virginia, Arkansas and California. 

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