Paper set to change hands
After 39 years that started with Jackson Hole News, publisher will retire at end of year.
Jackson Hole News&Guide Chief Operating Officer Kevin Olson, who with his wife, Shelley, has agreed to purchase the company from principal owner Mike Sellett, plans to remain in his position as grill master extraordinaire at company picnics along with his duties as publisher. The Olsons have been residents of Teton County since 2001. ANGUS M. THUERMER JR. / NEWS&GUIDEView our entire photo gallery >>
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 19, 2012
Jackson Hole News&Guide principal owner Michael Sellett will sell the newspaper company to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Olson and his wife Shelley, the parties said Tuesday.
Kevin Olson made the announcement Tuesday in the News&Guide offices, saying a purchase agreement had been signed for an undisclosed sum.
Teton Media Works will be the new company that will take over operation of the weekly paper, the Jackson Hole Daily, Jackson Hole and Images West magazines and associated websites and partnerships.
Completion of the deal at the end of the year will bring to a close an era in which Sellett took the Jackson Hole News to national prominence. Along the way, he sparked a classic small-town newspaper war with the Jackson Hole Guide, all eagerly absorbed by valley folk.
The two papers merged in 2002.
This week Sellett looked back almost 40 years to when Virginia Huidekoper and Marc Fischer sold him the Jackson Hole News in 1973.
“Neither they nor I understood how life-changing that moment would become,” he said.
A Chicago youth and graduate of Northwestern University, Sellett had written for several newspapers before taking jobs in Rawlins and Jackson. In Teton County he found a lively citizenry ready to be engaged.
“For more than four decades, the News and its role in this community became my life,” he said. “It gave me one of the greatest jobs a newspaperman could ever imagine.
“I am convinced that great newspapers reflect the communities they serve, and hopefully our efforts have been a reflection of the intelligence, diversity and involvement of the people who make this valley so special.”
During his time as publisher and editor, Sellett saw the newspaper win numerous national awards; it was regularly recognized as being the best in its class. He gave credit to workers.
“That legacy represents the efforts of hundreds of editors, reporters, photographers, salespeople, artists and production personnel who passed through these doors over a nearly a half century,” he said. “Together we tried to produce a newspaper that not only covered the news events of the week but provided a window into the lives of the hardy souls who shaped the history of Jackson Hole as well as those who offered a vision of how this community would take control of its future.”
Kevin Olson said the paper will remain focused.
“The initial plan is to carry forward with the same attention to local news that has been the hallmark of the News&Guide,” he said. A locally owned paper will not just reflect but be part of the fabric of Teton County, he said. It will eventually expand its content and advertising services to subscribers of its online and mobile news and information.
Journalism is the foundation of the company, and the newspaper is and will be the “primary vehicle,” Olson said. “We also want to recognize there are audiences out there who like to consume their news in other ways.
“I definitely want to work with our editorial team to assess our product lineup,” he said. “We’ll make decisions on the evolution of our products together.” he said. “I respect their skills.”
Being a resident owner is important, Olson said.
“First and foremost, it holds us accountable to the community — us — our 61 employees.”
When considering who to sell to, local ownership was important, Sellett said.
“In an era of exciting changes on the media landscape, it was important to me that the newspaper remain in local hands,” he said. “Since taking over management of the newspaper 11 years ago, Kevin and his family have planted deep roots in this valley, and he has become an outstanding leader in the business community.
“Local ownership of media properties is unusual today, but it is a tradition that the Olsons are committed to preserving.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported us over the years and wish Kevin and his family continued success,” Sellett said.
Kevin Olson is the President of Teton Media Works Inc. and publisher of its media brands. He and Shelley Olson have children and a dog named Blue. They’ve been residents of Teton County since 2001.
Kevin Olson recently served as chairman of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and continues to serve as a member of its executive committee. He’s a past board member of the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole Lunch Club and continues to be an active member.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Arizona State University with a major in journalism and minor in advertising and public relations.
From 1991 to 2001, he worked at the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif. He was director of marketing and product development and held other positions including in sales.
Shelley Olson is a stay-at-home mother and volunteer. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University with a major in marketing and minor in advertising. She worked in pharmaceutical sales for Eli Lilly in Southern California for eight years and also was an elementary school teacher.
Teton Media Works will buy the company from stockholders that include Sellett, the heirs of Liz McCabe, Al and Julie Renneisen, and Thomas Dewell.
Local ownership of the community newspaper stretches back to the Jackson’s Hole Courier, first published in the early 1900s. The masthead of the April 2, 1914, edition, believed to be from its sixth year of publication, listed Richard Winger as editor.
The Jackson Hole Guide was born in 1956. Floy Tonkin and William Kirol were its owners and editors.
In 1968, the Guide listed Kirol alone as editor and publisher. The same year, Fred McCabe and Ron Lytle bought the newspaper.
The masthead listed McCabe as president and Lytle as publisher. Liz Ramsay married McCabe in 1970 and became part of a business she would not leave until her death this summer at 101.
Fred McCabe died in 1997.
The Guide spawned competition. Unsatisfied with news coverage, Virginia Huidekoper and Ralph Gill started the Jackson Hole News in 1970. The first issue, on April 17, listed Norman and Jackie Lynes as editors and publishers.
Marc Fisher bought Ralph Gill’s shares soon after the paper launched. Sellett worked for the two for a while and bought the News in 1973.
In 2002, the two competing papers merged into the News&Guide.