Stakeholders in the purchase of the Delta County Independent stand in front of the Meeker Street newspaper office Tuesday afternoon. From left, they are Delta County Independent production manager Ron Sunderland, former DCI co-owner Pat Sunderland, Wick Communications CEO Francis Wick, Montrose Daily Press/DCI publisher Dennis Anderson, Bob Wick, former DCI co-owner Randy Sunderland and DCI advertising director Roxanne McCormick.
The Delta County Independent’s 137-year history will continue under new ownership, after Wick Communications acquired the regional news source from longtime owners, Randy and Pat Sunderland; Ron Sunderland; and Roxanne Sunderland McCormick.
The sale includes the DCI’s building. Randy Sunderland’s siblings and former co-owners will remain in leadership roles at the paper.
“The Delta County Independent will remain independent,” Pat reassured readers Tuesday, when the acquisition was finalized and announced.
“Our greatest desire is for the transition to be successful for our staff, for the community and for the Wick family.”
The DCI joins the Montrose Daily Press, also 137 years old, as a member of the Wick publication family. Wick Communications acquired the Daily Press in the 1990s. The family-owned company owns more than two dozen newspapers and specialty publications in 11 states. The DCI is Wick’s second Colorado property.
“We’ve been talking with the Wick family for many years,” Randy said. “Ten years ago, there were some internal reasons why it wasn’t the right time. We’ve cleared the things that needed to disappear so we could do it.
“We are thankful that the Wicks are the kind of company that could come in and keep that community flavor and community focus. They have a proven track record.”
Wick Communications president and CEO Francis Wick and his father, Bob Wick, were on hand for the Tuesday announcement.
“We’re honored to have been chosen by the entire Sunderland family to continue this great tradition of journalistic service to the community,” Francis Wick said.
“The Delta County Independent and surrounding communities served have a strong, independent spirit and voice that the newspaper will continue to support and foster. Ultimately, a newspaper is only as strong as the community fabric and desire to grow together, rather than apart.”
The Sunderland family’s many years of newspapering began in 1972, when Randy’s parents, Norman and Gladys Sunderland, established Leadership Publishing Company and took over The Limon Leader in northeastern Colorado, according to the DCI’s announcement of the sale to Wick.
Randy, with brother Ron and sister Roxanne, grew up with the Limon paper.
Their parents eventually acquired a community newspaper in Paonia, The North Fork Times, which they were able to grow in circulation and advertising sales.
The Sunderlands’ success caught the notice of the Delta-area business community, which Randy said was not happy with the then-corporate owners of the DCI. The Sunderlands purchased the DCI from Cox Enterprises on Oct. 31, 1987.
Eventually, the DCI and North Fork Times consolidated and the family sold The Limon Leader. Norman, Gladys, Ron, Roxanne, Randy and Pat, his wife, maintained active roles in publishing the Delta paper, until 1998, when Norman and Gladys retired.
Now, it’s Randy and Pat’s turn to retire.
The Sunderlands said they are confident they are leaving the DCI in good hands.
Montrose Daily Press Publisher Dennis Anderson will be publisher at the DCI, as well. He is a Delta High School graduate and longtime area resident, who spent the past few years leading Wick’s publications in Alaska and has recently returned home.
“We think the fact that Dennis is going to be the publisher will really resonate with our community members who value those local ties. We’re pleased that Dennis has been named publisher,” Pat said.
“I think that’s the biggest fear that we’ve heard from folks, is that they fear a return to what they had before, when the paper was corporate-owned. This was kind of the stepchild in the Cox (company). … Quite frankly, it wasn’t a very positive community newspaper,” Randy said, explaining some of those who Cox brought in viewed the small weekly as a stepping stone, rather than as a long-term commitment.
“I don’t think that will happen in this transition. A lot of the fears will be allayed with Dennis as the head, and the fact that there will be familiar faces, staff-wise,” Randy added.
“To have the opportunity to be the publisher of my hometown community newspaper is an incredible honor,” Anderson said. “My ties to the community run deep. The DCI has always been a part of my life and is how I have stayed informed about Delta County over the years.
“Randy, Pat and the entire team have created and maintained one of the best community newspapers in the state. We will work hard to continue the same level of journalism and community involvement.”
Ron Sunderland will remain as production manager. Roxanne (Sunderland) McCormick will remain as advertising director. Additionally, all current DCI staffers have been offered jobs.
“We are counting on Ron and Roxanne to drive the ship forward. They will be valuable assets to Wick Communications, as will all our employees, but they’ll be able to provide that level of leadership,” Pat said.
“We have always approached our work in the community newspaper industry with a team concept,” Ron said.
“This community has been a crucial part of that team. It welcomed us with open arms when we arrived in 1987 and has never left us. We thank each and every one, from subscribers to advertisers and news sources. You have all contributed to our success and longevity in this industry. We have always felt this newspaper was as much your newspaper as ours.”
Ron cited for special recognition longtime employees Diane Webster, Randy Crespin and Sandy Conner.
Roxanne thanked the advertisers who have supported the DCI for the past three decades, as well as her sales staff.
“I look forward to continuing to manage this terrific sales team under the new ownership of the Wick family,” she said.
Randy and Pat Sunderland are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their grandchildren, who do not live close by.
They’re proud of their family’s journalism legacy.
“The DCI is a grand community newspaper with a rich 137-year heritage, and the Sunderlands have been blessed to play a role,” Randy said.
“I am excited about the next chapter for the paper and how Wick Communications — with its own family tradition and expanded resources — will shape the paper to be successful in today’s changing media environment.
“I began my career as a paper carrier 50 years ago. It is appropriate I should get to close it out delivering the paper to the post office this morning.”
This article includes information and quotes from the Delta County Independent’s own piece announcing the change in ownership, which also was published today, Wednesday, May 1.