GUNNISON—Sanpete News Co., the company that publishes the Sanpete Messenger, will publish two newspapers, beginning next week.
Sanpete News owner Suzanne Dean has acquired the Gunnison Valley Gazette from Mark and Jodi Henline, who founded the newspaper and have been publishing it for 16 years. The Henlines published their first issue on April 17, 2005 and have published 831 issues since.
“I’m sad,” Jodi Henline said Tuesday, the day after the Henlines sent their last issue to press. “It’s been fun to be part of this community. They’ve welcomed us; they’ve supported us.”
Over the preceding week, she said she had been up and down emotionally. “But I feel like it’s time [to move on].”
Mark Henline said he had started crying when a Salt Lake City TV station called to interview him about stepping down as publisher.
In a thank-you message on the front page of the final issue on April 15, Henline wrote, “Let me say what an honor it’s been to have been part of your lives over the years. It’s been fun to cover the school activities: plays, assemblies, sports, concerts and graduations. It’s been amazing to see how our valley has changed over the years.”
Mark Henline gave credit to his wife for the Gazette’s 16-year run. “I was always out in public and the face of the paper, but Jodi is the one who put all the pieces together,” he wrote.
Dean said the Gazette nameplate will stay the same. The moniker will still be “Your hometown newspaper.” The phone number, 528-5178, and email, firstname.lastname@example.org, will also stay the same.
Although writing and layout will be done at the Sanpete News Co. building in Manti, Dean is finalizing arrangements to set up a drop site at Copy Station, 558 S. Main, Gunnison, where people can leave weddings, obituaries, classifieds, news items, etc.
“We will continue the Valley Views page, continue the same sponsorships, work with advertisers who want to primarily reach the Gunnison Valley and fill the news columns with Gunnison-Valley specific news,” Dean said.
The new Gazette plans to keep the community-based writers and photographers who worked for the newspaper in the past.
One difference between the operations, one that should be a benefit to readers, Dean said, is that the Sanpete News Co. has four full-time reporters who can help cover local government, schools and sports.
Dean has as a master’s degree in journalism and earlier in her career worked for the Ogden Standard Examiner, Deseret News and the University of Utah Public Relations Department.
It was about a month ago, Dean said, when she got a call from Mark Henline while she was parked at Sam’s Club in Provo, where she had stopped to buy Kleenex and hand sanitizer for the Sanpete News Co. office.
Henline said he and his wife wanted to move on and asked if she would take over the Gazette.
“My gut instinct is that expansion is always good for business, but I said I wanted to sit down with him the next week to talk about it,” Dean said. “Based on that meeting, I decided it was viable, both financially and journalistically.”
She said the phone call brought her full circle. In 2004, she bought what was then the Gunnison Valley News from Jim Olsen, who had been publishing for about eight years.
She planned to make the paper an extension of the Sanpete Messenger with a mix of Gunnison Valley and countywide news. She discontinued the Gunnison Valley News and sent subscribers a paper called the Sanpete Messenger, Gunnison Valley Edition. The first issue came out Sept. 1, 2004.
“It didn’t work,” she said. Over the next few years, it became clear that while some people in the Gunnison Valley were interested in a countywide paper, the majority wanted a “hyperlocal” paper covering the Gunnison Valley only.
About the time she started the Gunnison Valley Edition, she had been talking to Mark Henline about coming to work for the Messenger as a sales representative.
In spring, 2005, she called him and offered him the job. “He said, ‘No thanks, I’m going to do my own thing,’” Dean said.
The Gazette carved deeply into the business of the Sanpete Messenger-Gunnison Valley Edition. On Aug. 13, Dean dropped the tagline “Gunnison Valley Edition” and started circulating the same newspaper to all locations in Sanpete County.