Bill Pepper: A new Sun era

Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 10:44 p.m.

Forty years of Gainesville history came to a close last week as The New York Times sold The Gainesville Sun. With mixed emotions we say farewell to NYT ownership.

The good was much obscured by a popular misconception that ultra-liberal Times, headquarters in New York, dictated news and editorials to Gainesville. To my knowledge, generally that was not true. Local publishers and editors always maintained that they had a free hand.

Sun editorials, however, did take the liberal side of most issues. This always seemed to belie the fact, if indeed true, that opinion on local issues was independent.

It's notable that The Sun did several other things unusually well: If dissent and criticism of the paper came in letters they were usually published as written. Among other improvements, a typographical and layout overhaul of The Sun makes it sparkle in appearance compared to other dailies.

As it now stands, we look forward to the new owners, Halifax Media Group of Daytona Beach. Halifax paid $150 million for 16 Times-owned dailies, including The Sun. It's important, at a time of huge distress in the publishing field, that Halifax has powerful financial backing and expertise from Stephens Inc., legendary Little Rock investment bankers. Stephens has been intertwined with Wal-Mart financing and played the lead role in other massive projects, like the Louisiana Superdome. This welcome strength comes to The Sun and the community at a time of great need.

Halifax CEO Michael Redding said that local news will be enhanced. Let's pray that objective journalism becomes a like goal.

Bill Pepper III was executive editor when the Pepper family sold The Sun in 1963 to Cowles MBI, which in turn sold the newspaper to The New York Times.

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