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Oxford Eagle May Be Up for Sale

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The Oxford Eagle was established in 1865.

Owners of the Oxford Eagle and executives of two out of town newspapers refused to comment on whether the local paper is for sale.
A source told HottyToddy.com Jan. 20 that discussions are underway between the Eagle and three suitors — Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo, Emmerich Newspapers of Jackson and Boone Newspapers, Inc. of Northport, Ala. The source asked not to be named.
The Eagle was established in 1865 and has been locally owned since 1961. The current owners are the Phillips and Vasilyev families. Because of the rapid growth and growing national attention experienced by both Oxford and Ole Miss, industry observers say other potential buyers may become involved if discussions move forward.
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Many newspapers are suffering severe losses.

But questions directed to potential buyers as well as members of the Phillips and Vasilyev families resulted in a steady stream of “no comments.”
“I can’t comment on that,” said Wyatt Emmerich, president of Jackson-based Emmerich Newspapers and a third-generation newspaperman.
HT.com also contacted Oxford members of the ownership families, Tim Phillips and Bob Vasilyev. Phillips said, “I can’t comment on that.” Vasilyev said no comment.
James B. Boone, Jr. Chairman of the Board of Boone Newspapers, headquartered in Northport Ala., told HT.com, “I can’t comment and I don’t know a lot about it.” The Tuscaloosa-based Boone then commented that Oxford was a wonderful town in which to live. Boone would not comment on any possible connection between Oxford and Tuscaloosa as SEC growth spots. Tuscaloosa is Boone’s home and the city where his family launched its newspaper empire.
Clay Foster, publisher of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and Tom Carpenter, COO of Boone Newspapers, have not returned requests for comment on the potential sale.
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The Oxford Eagle has been locally owned since 1961.

All three newspaper groups have been on buying expeditions throughout the region as consolidation occurs amid a generally troubled newspaper industry. Emmerich Newspapers and Northeast Daily Journal own multiple newspapers in Mississippi while Boone also owns newspapers in Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
According to a Jan. 18 historical overview published by the Eagle as the newspaper approaches its 150th anniversary, the newspaper “was formed from the ashes of the Civil War destruction not far from its present offices (Jackson Avenue).
“While it’s had its ups and downs — from out-of-town to local ownership, through peaks and dives in it its strength and success — the consistent theme remains the newspaper’s long-term commitment to the community it serves,” the Eagle report states.
Emmerich Newspapers, headed by Wyatt Emmerich, son of the late John Emmerich, whose father was Pulitzer Prize winner Oliver Emmerich, is a chain of 28 weekly and daily newspapers. Included are the Greenwood Commonwealth, McComb Enterprise Journal, and Jackson’s Northside Sun. Emmerich Newspapers’ most recent acquisition was the Kosciusko Star Herald in May of last year.
Clay Foster is publisher of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the largest daily in northeast Mississippi. The Daily Journal also owns eight weeklies, including the Pontotoc Progress, Southern Sentinel, and Chickasaw Journal. Recently the Journal purchased the New Albany News-Exchange.
James B. Boone, Jr. of Tuscaloosa is Chairman of the Board of Boone Newspapers, headquartered in Northport Ala., while Todd H. Carpenter of Natchez is president and chief operating officer. Most recently, Boone Newspapers expanded its Mississippi holdings with the purchase of the Brookhaven, Miss., Daily Leader and the Vicksburg, Miss., Post.
The Oxford Eagle’s history dates to the last year of the Civil War. The Oxford Falcon, early forerunner of the Eagle, was established by Samuel More Thompson in 1865 with the motto “Truth is a weapon with which we fight.”
In 1961 the Eagle was purchased by Jesse Phillips, Nina Goolsby and Walter S. Featherston.  Phillips, who earned a degree in journalism at Ole Miss, was the linotype operator, Goolsby was the bookkeeper and Featherston was the shop foreman.
Mr. and Ms. Phillips (2)
Mrs. and Mr. Phillips.

Later, Phillips and his wife, Jeanette, and Goolsby and her husband, J.C., bought out the Featherston family and Phillips became publisher while Goolsby became a renowned advertising manager, as the weekly newspaper converted to daily status. The Eagle earned many awards for journalism excellence in competitions sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association.
Current owners are Phillips and Goolsby heirs.
The oldest Phillips son, Dan, was serving as publisher when he unexpectedly died in 2005. He was a highly regarded young journalist who served as president of both the Mississippi and National Press Associations. Tim Phillips and Rita Vasilyev, the Goolsbys’ oldest daughter, were named co-publishers. Dan Phillips’ widow, Susan, and the Goolsbys’ youngest daughter, Lila Long, have an ownership interest but have not been actively involved in the newspaper.
Large metropolitan newspapers have suffered severe losses, many even closing their doors, because of the digital age and shift in readership and marketing patterns. But, according to Dr. Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media and himself a partner in a small newspaper company, “Many regional and smaller newspapers have weathered the change but also have experienced somewhat stagnant revenues, many being purchased by chains.
“Under local ownership The Oxford Eagle has made an enormous contribution to this region and to community journalism but the trend is consolidation and often that brings in outside ownership,” Norton added. “I would expect many newspaper corporations will be interested in Oxford.”
Dr. Ed Meek, former assistant vice chancellor for Public Relations and Marketing at Ole Miss, long-time friend of the ownership group and publisher of HottyToddy.com, said, “The enormous contributions made by these families to our community cannot be measured, but to a great extent today’s city of Oxford, treasured by so many and recognized for excellence nationally, is the result of local ownership and a dedicated focus on service. The Eagle has been a steadfast supporter of the growth of Ole Miss and Oxford in all of the positive trends that have shaped the community.”
Andy Knef is the editor of HottyToddy.com. Andy can be reached at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com

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