North State Media, which owns the North State Journal and some community newspapers in central North Carolina, acquired a Charlotte printing plant that The Wall Street Journal developed in 1982 and sold to the Charlotte Observer’s parent company in 2013.
A Mecklenburg County filing shows North State Media paid $4.65 million for the property in November. North State President Neal Robbins announced the purchase this week. He says he approached McClatchy, which owns the newspapers in Raleigh and Charlotte, about buying the plant. Its 30 employees will remain on staff, he says.
I asked why anyone would buy a printing press in 2023, given the difficulties facing many publishers. Robbins says he believes well-run print publications have solid futures and that he expects the plant to be used by an increasing number of newspapers stretching from West Virginia to Georgia. It’s the best press in the South and Charlotte has a premier central location, he says. Robbins declines to discuss current clients.
To run the new “Charlotte Publishing Company,” Robbins hired veteran McClatchy executive William King as chief operating officer. King has 34 years of experience in newspapers, most recently as a regional vice president for McClatchy.
Robbins is a former state employee who started the conservative-leaning North State Journal in 2016 with a goal of creating a statewide publication. He has since added six local editions in Chatham, Forsyth, Hoke, Moore, Randolph and Stanly counties. His goal is to reach 10,000 subscribers within the next nine months.
Robbins hasn’t disclosed his financial backers and declined to do so yesterday. Most media companies, including Business North Carolina, are transparent about their ownership.
Robbins takes a different view. “I own the company. I’m the only board member and the decision-making is solely mine. That’s what ownership is all about.”