Revisiting That ‘Tom Sawyer Business Plan’

Five years ago, the New York Times painted a not entirely hopeful picture in Santa Rosa, NM.


The article was all about the decision by laid off Rocky Mountain News D.C. correspondent M.E. Sprengelmeyer to purchase weekly community newspaper The Guadalupe County Communicator. Anchored to an area two hours east of Albuquerque, the paper had a circulation of just a few thousand:

“It’s the Tom Sawyer business plan: I’m trying to convince all my friends how much fun it would be to help me,” said Sprengelmeyer.

Cut to 2014. As part of a special article commemorating the enduring success of another AZ print publication, the Sante Fe Reporter, Sprengelmeyer, once also a reporter there, revealed the following:

Just this month, he used profits from the [Guadalupe] paper to make the final payment on a five-year loan he took out to buy it. He’ll tell anyone who asks, “The future of print is print.”

“If it doesn’t lose its focus on being intensely responsive to its local readership, print can still maintain its relevance in face of the Internet and TV and radio and text messaging and social media,” he explains. “None of those outlets can do what a local printed newspaper can do,” he continues, adding that newspapers matter as community institutions where readers can walk in the front door and let ’er rip.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, there’s a second equally worthwhile article marking the Santa Fe Reporter‘s evolution. For that one, current deputy editor Enrique Limón caught up with original publisher and founder Richard McCord, an ex-Newsday reporter.