Washington County man closes deal to buy 177-year-old newspaper

GREENWICH — It’s been Darren Johnson’s dream to buy a second historic print newspaper after his previous success with the 100-year-old Sag Harbor Express on Long Island.

“We modernized it and it became one of best newspapers in the state, winning New York Press Association paper of the year,” said Johnson, who was also named journalist of the year by the state press association. “I have wanted to find a newspaper like that and duplicate it.”

And finding out that the Washington County Greenwich Journal & Salem Press was for sale was “a dream come true,” he said.

“We just closed the deal a few hours ago,” Johnson, a Greenwich resident, said on Friday afternoon. “We’ve been talking about it for about a month. It’s very exciting to have a 177-year-old newspaper.”

The Greenwich Journal & Salem Press, a paid circulation newspaper previously owned by Meghan Phalen, is scheduled to start publishing again on Jan. 1. Its last edition was published on Oct. 31.

“I’ve been a huge fan of the paper, and Meghan did a fantastic job at maintaining its time-honored tradition and integrity in our region,” Johnson said. “I am grateful and humbled to be able to continue this tradition and to be able to positively serve our region through journalism.”

Johnson — who also owns Campus News, a print newspaper circulated to 37 colleges — said that the Journal & Press may remain a weekly newspaper, but he is also considering a bi-weekly option.

“We will investigate to see if it is best to stay a weekly,” he said. “It might be better to be bi-weekly and take more time with stories.”

While many newspapers focused on web-based publication, Johnson said he believes in a print newspaper.

“A lot of papers believe they have to go digital, but there is no money in digital,” he said, adding that many people in Washington County do not have reliable internet coverage. “We will focus on the print product.”

Johnson said he believes he has the formula for print success. And while not revealing his exact formula, he did talk about product placement and updated displays in grocery stores.

“The displays have not been updated in years,” he said. “And the newspapers are in stores after the checkout.”

Additionally, Johnson said he is exploring ways to help the community and small businesses, even considering offering free ad space to nonprofits like area food banks.

“First and foremost, we want to be a community resource,” he said.