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Longtime publisher buying Denton Record-Chronicle from A. H. Belo

The Denton Record-Chronicle is going to be locally owned again.

Bill Patterson, the longtime publisher of the Record-Chronicle, is purchasing the paper from A. H. Belo Corp., which has owned the publication since 1999. The sale will be completed by the end of the year, he announced Tuesday afternoon.

"I think there's a great opportunity in Denton," Patterson said. "I feel strongly that Denton needs a daily newspaper and robust and trusted digital portfolio, and I believe we can be productive and grow."

The decision to buy came after Patterson and leaders at A. H. Belo realized the solutions to problems at The Dallas Morning News, the flagship publication of A.H. Belo, wouldn't necessarily work at a smaller paper like the Record-Chronicle, Patterson said.

Grant Moise, executive vice president of A. H. Belo, reiterated that the paths forward for the two papers weren't the same. So the split makes sense, he said.

The two companies will continue to work together after the split, Moise said. The newspaper will still be printed and distributed through Belo, and The News and the Record-Chronicle will continue to share content.

"The real difference will be in the ownership structure, and Bill and the DRC team will have real, true autonomy and independence over the strategic decisions they make in the future," Moise said. "We're excited we're going to remain business partners with the DRC, and I hope we'll be able to play a meaningful part of their future, just in a different way."

Moving forward, Patterson said he sees a lot of opportunity to grow the print subscription base as well as local content in the publication. Demand for print subscriptions is increasing, he said, and will cause the company to pursue aggressive plans to grow the customer base. 

Patterson said independent ownership will allow the new company to react quickly to market needs and launch new marketing products to serve consumers and business customers — print or digital.

Plus, no other company serves the market like the Record-Chronicle, and drc digital media (digital media agency), Patterson said.

"We reach a significant audience every day through the various parts of our media company. Everyone in Denton likes the uniqueness of Denton," he said. "Certainly, having a local daily newspaper is highly desirable. The only other dailies in the metroplex are The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Love us or not, imagine Denton without a daily source of factual local content."

To complete the purchase, Patterson formed Denton Media Company to acquire Denton Publishing Company, the umbrella organization over the Denton Record-Chronicle. The terms of the deal will not be disclosed.

The Denton Record-Chronicle became a daily newspaper in 1903 after two weekly papers merged, the Denton Chronicle and the Denton County Record. William C. Edwards bought the Record, and created the paper. His family owned the paper until Riley Cross, Bill Patterson's grandfather, bought the paper in 1945. Cross formed the Denton Publishing Company in 1947.

"I could not be more pleased that Bill indicated his interest in buying the Denton Record-Chronicle," said Jim Moroney, chairman and CEO of A. H. Belo. "Bill is equally dedicated to excellence in journalism as he is to being a first-rate business operator. It's wonderful to have the Denton Record Chronicle back in the hands of the founding Patterson family, from whom we bought the paper in 1999. There is no better steward for the paper than Bill and no better outcome for the Denton community which it serves. This is a great outcome all around."

Around Denton, local officials said they were excited to see what Patterson will do with the company. 

"Obviously, the Pattersons have had the paper in their family for a long time, and whenever we can have homegrown institutions in the city of Denton locally owned, I think it's always a good thing," Mayor Chris Watts said. 

Neal Smatresk, president of the University of North Texas, said this is an exciting time to buy a media organization in the area because of the tremendous growth projections for Denton County. 

"I think the ability for the paper to really dig into hot topics on a local level will increase dramatically in 10 years, and this positions the paper to take advantage of this growth," he said. 

The switch in ownership shows Patterson believes in the future of the paper and Denton, said Carine Feyten, president and chancellor of Texas Woman's University. 

"I'm a huge supporter of Bill, and I think this is a fantastic thing," Feyten said. "I'm thrilled to hear he's keeping it here local and is willing to invest his money in it." 

Reading the paper in the mornings was a habit state Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, who represents District 64, kept up even when he was in Austin. To have the paper return to local ownership and leadership is a good thing, Stucky said. 

"I think a local paper is very important, and it's something I've always read every morning," he said. "I'm glad we have the DRC and I'm glad it's a daily paper. I hope this is going to be a positive for the paper that it's owned locally and not by an outside source." 

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.

FEATURED PHOTO: Denton Record-Chronicle publisher Bill Patterson stands inside the newspaper's office lobby on Tuesday. Patterson announced Tuesday he will purchase the newspaper from A. H. Belo.
Jake King/DRC