Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Independent publisher buys Silver City, Deming papers

The publisher of the Silver City Daily Press and Independent, the Silver City Independent Publishing Co., is buying two Southwestern New Mexico newspapers from newspaper conglomerate Gannett: the Silver City Sun-News and the Deming Headlight.

All three newspapers cover Grant County and nearby Luna County, with a combined population of over 50,000.

“There’s a fascinating history for me in both of those newspapers,” said Nickolas Seibel, editor and publisher of the Daily Press. “I mean, Silver City being a two newspaper town for the last 25 years or so, let’s just say, it’s an unusual situation.”

The Sun-News, which published its last edition on Friday will be incorporated into the Daily Press. The Deming Headlight will start publishing next week at a new office at 208 S. Gold Ave. in Deming, and continue its Wednesday/Friday print schedule. Seibel said the goal is to beef up the Headlight’s print presence.

“Certainly, we have digital products and we believe, of course, that eventually the future is digital,” Seibel said. “But in small communities like Silver City and Deming, print is still a powerful, powerful medium. … I think the last print newspaper in the United States is going to be in a place that looks very much like these places.”

The last employee of the Deming Headlight, who was laid off recently, will be rejoining the paper to cover sports. The paper will also gain longtime New Mexico journalist Algernon D’Ammassa as editor-in-chief.

D’Ammassa is coming from the Las Cruces Sun News. He worked as a reporter for the Deming Headlight in 2017, before moving to the Las Cruces Sun-News a year later to work as a business and education reporter. He later became an investigative reporter for the paper.

D’Ammassa said even in 2017, the Deming Headlight was shrinking, with the print publication cut from five days a week to two, and a dwindling number of employees.

“Luna County is a community that still wants and needs their newspaper,” D’Ammassa said. “But they want to read local news.”

He said that many Luna Country residents, especially in the village of Columbus, don’t have internet access and rely on print media. Some Columbus residents even started reporting local news on a volunteer basis.

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“You really saw a community preparing to be left in the dark without budgeted, funded, full-time journalists providing these services,” D’Ammassa said.

The Silver City Sun-News, which was connected to the Las Cruces Sun-News, hasn’t had any employees for several years.

Seibel didn’t disclose the purchase price for either paper.

Seibel said that although the Daily Press will be the last remaining print publication in Silver City, there’s still a “robust media environment” in the city that includes a community radio station and an online newspaper.

“It’s really hard as a newspaper guy to be someone who closes the newspaper, that’s the last thing that I want to do,” Seibel said. “… Even though we’ll be the last remaining journalistic voice in print, there are a number of people that are doing news and opinion in the community. And so there will be other voices and other outlets, even though the Sun-News won’t be among them.”

The three publications have a long history.

The Daily Press was created by Col. Clyde Earl Ely in 1935. Ely later went on to own the Deming Headlight for two years after leaving their competition, the Deming Graphic.

Seibel bought the Daily Press in 2014 from the Ely family, which had owned the paper since the 1930s. Although Seibel never studied journalism, in high school Seibel was a stringer for the paper – he got his first byline in the Daily Press at age 15. Seibel, a former MainStreet manager for Silver City, was baking and selling pies at farmers’ markets when he heard that the paper was going under. Buying it was an “impulse.”

“I couldn’t imagine my hometown without its hometown newspaper,” Seibel said.

The Silver City Sun-News was founded in 1996 by MediaNews Group owner William Singleton. Singleton had previously tried to buy the Daily Press from the Ely family, Seibel said, but the family refused — so Singleton decided to make a competing paper, a Silver City edition of the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Both the Deming Headlight and the Silver City Sun-News in recent years have been part of the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, which was fully bought by Gannett in 2015. The partnership includes five other New Mexico newspapers: the Las Cruces Sun-News , the Daily Times in Farmington, the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Alamogordo Daily News and Ruidoso News. In August, Gannett laid off hundreds of employees around the country, Poynter reported.

“There are certainly things I could do that would be way more lucrative,” Seibel said. “But there are few things I can imagine doing that are more important, have more impact on the place that I care about. And so, you know, to be able to spend your life doing that kind of work is pretty amazing.”

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