GEORGIA STRAIGHT SOLD TO MEDIA CENTRAL CORP. FOR $1.25M

Weekly newspaper, which started in 1967 as an 'anti-establishment' publication, has had trouble staying afloat

The Dec. 26, 2019 edition of The Georgia Straight newspaper. (Jan Zeschky/CBC)

The Media Central Corporation Inc. has moved to buy the Vancouver-based Georgia Straight newspaper for $1.25 million.

In addition to the weekly print publication, which began as an anti-establishment newspaper in 1967, Media Central is poised to acquire straight.com and straightcannabis.ca, it announced Monday.

It’s the second recent acquisition for the company. Last month, Media Central, which has an address in Vaughn, Ont., said it was acquiring Now Magazine — Toronto’s weekly alternative paper — and its website for $2 million.

Its other publications include the cannabis-focused website CannCentral.

The Georgia Straight currently has an estimated 2.7 million readers of its print edition, and another 1.8 million readers online.

Decline in advertising

Founder Dan McLeod says he saw potential in Media Central’s plans for Now, which were announced Dec. 2. His son, general manager Matt McLeod, negotiated the deal.

He said he hopes the sale gives staff at the publication job security.

“We have had problems with trying to stay running,” he told CBC in an interview Monday.

McLeod acknowledged that weeklies have been hit by the same decline in advertising that has affected most other print publications since the rise in digital alternatives.

He said the company that’s buying the Georgia Straight has embarked on an “ambitious” bid to buy up more than 100 alternative publications in Canada and the U.S.

“I think that Media Central has a plan to move forward. They’re going to buy up a lot of alternative papers and they have some innovative ideas. So, I think they have a good chance to make a go of it,” he said.

Woman walks past a Georgia Straight newspaper box in Vancouver as news hits that the publication has been sold. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

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Media Central’s chief executive, Brian Kalish, said there’s an opportunity to tap into a stable readership developed over the years by alternative weeklies across North America.

“The Straight is a highly trusted Vancouver institution,” Kalish said in a statement.

“The Georgia Straight brings more than 50 years of respected, award-winning local journalism and an influential loyal audience of 4.5 million monthly readers to the Media Central family.”

Raided by police

The half-century-old alternative weekly was founded by McLeod while he was a University of British Columbia math student. Over the years, the paper has been temporarily banned and McLeod said he was briefly jailed.

In the early years, McLeod said that his publication was raided by the police and once fined for obscenity. In the 1970s the Straight employed Bob Geldof, a young Irish writer, before he went on to fame with the Boomtown Rats.

Copies of the Georgia Straight are displayed at its Vancouver headquarters on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

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McLeod says he’s semi-retired but will remain available in an advisory capacity. He expects Media Central will retain the company’s other staff to run the Vancouver operation.

Media Central Corporation Inc. is listed on the Canadian Securities exchange and describes itself as an independent media company that’s moving to acquire and develop publishing assets.

With files from Yvette Brend

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