In a time when many daily newspapers are closing their doors, the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Mo., is staying open, and in the family. First published in 1901, the paper has been owned by the Waters and Watson families since 1904 and is currently owned by W&L alumnus Hank Waters, of the class of 1951. Earlier this month, the paper announced an agreement that keeps its ownership in the Waters family for the foreseeable future.
Under the agreement, Andy Waters, a 1991 W&L graduate, and his sister, Elizabeth — Hank’s two youngest children— are buying out four other family members to take full ownership of the newspaper and publishing company on Jan. 1, 2011.
Hank will become publisher emeritus and continue writing editorials while his wife, associate publisher Vicki Russell, will become publisher. Andy Waters gives up his current title as vice president for interactive media and becomes president and general manager. Hank’s two other children will retire.
Family newspapers don’t always stay in families. That fact was noted by the executive director of the Missouri Press Association in the Daily Tribune’s article on the ownership change. Doug Crews noted that “There are times when families, several individuals, can’t agree what to do in the future. The temptation is to throw up their hands and say, ‘Let’s sell the newspaper.’ ”
The decision clearly pleased Hank. In his column on Dec. 22, he wrote: “As the current reigning patriarch, I am proud of my descendants for working out a mutually agreeable transfer of Tribune ownership.” He went on to note that his columns will continue: “Through all of this, the owners have not been able to get rid of their aging meddler, the prolific if not always brilliant writer of this column.”
Andy, a journalism and mass communications major at W&L, had been a reporter with Associated Press prior to joining the family business in 1995.