Local ownership leads newspaper group out of debt and to a Pulitzer Prize

Jun 1, 2019

Press Democrat staff members learn they won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly North Bay wildfires (Press Democrat)
Press Democrat staff members learn they won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly North Bay wildfires (Press Democrat)
The front page tearsheet of the story that earned the PD staff the Pulitzer Prize.

SANTA ROSA, California — At a time when media publications are shrinking and consolidating, Darius Anderson returned The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California, to local ownership in 2012. The newspaper and its affiliated publications are now debt-free and have returned all capital to investors.

“As you look across the country at media companies, the ones in the greatest trouble are those deeply in debt. The retirement of our debt will allow us to focus on the local journalism that now reaches seven out of 10 Sonoma County adults,” said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments LLC, which owns and operates The Press Democrat and affiliated publications.

“We put together the best management team and reporters possible, and the people of North Bay responded,” Anderson said. “Local ownership and local journalism matter.”

With local ownership came a renewed emphasis on local journalism and community involvement. In 2018, The Press Democrat staff won the Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news coverage of the deadly North Bay wildfires. The newspaper, in collaboration with community partners, also raised $32 million in four months and disbursed it immediately to those affected by the firestorm.

Anderson, owner and founder of Kenwood Investments LLC, formed Sonoma Media Investments to restore local ownership and strengthen local journalism across the North Bay, a sub-region of the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to The Press Democrat, Sonoma Media Investments owns the Sonoma Index-Tribune, Petaluma Argus-Courier, North Bay Business Journal, Sonoma Magazine, La Prensa Sonoma and Spirited Magazine.

Anderson, who is also Sonoma Media Investments’ managing member and board chairman, credits his team and the local community for the success of Sonoma Media Investments, which has bucked the trend of declining industry revenues.

Anderson transformed the Sonoma Index-Tribune and Sonoma Magazine, expanding the management team, operations, sales and marketing, and refocusing Sonoma Magazine to encapsulate the way of life across Sonoma County.

Readership of Sonoma Media Investments’ local print and digital products has increased every year since 2012. Today, 61% of Sonoma households read a printed daily newspaper, one of the country’s highest readership rates.

Anderson also owns Platinum Advisors LLC, a leading government relations and lobbying firm with offices in Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.