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North San Diego County Newspaper Chain Is Sold


A seven-newspaper chain of weekly publications in San Diego County that includes the Carlsbad Journal and Encinitas Coast Dispatch, has been purchased by a Rhode Island-based concern whose owners include media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The sale, the second change of ownership at North County Community Newspapers in less than a year, resulted in layoffs of about 20 employees on Wednesday, a 15% reduction in payroll, newspaper sources said.

Among those losing their jobs were eight of the chain's 39 editorial staffers. Some management employees were forced to take 5% salary reductions as well.

The new owner is Independent News Corp., a Rhode Island media company whose other California properties include The Log, a San Diego yachting publication; the Catalina Islander, and Good Times, a Santa Cruz entertainment weekly. Independent News Corp. is a "partnership of American and New Zealand interests" in which Murdoch owns a minority, non-controlling interest, chain sources said.

The seller is a venture of Bill Lyke, Sunwestern Investment Group and Communications Partners, which acquired the chain last January from Times Journal Co. of Springfield, Va., editor Dennis Lhota said.

The Lyke group reduced the newspapers' publication to once a week from twice a week shortly after assuming ownership.

The other publications being sold are the Del Mar Surfcomber, Rancho Santa Fe Times, Solana Beach Sun, Oceanside Breeze and Vista Voice.

The seven community publications have a combined circulation of 20,000, with the Carlsbad and Encinitas newspapers leading with 5,000 copies each, Lhota said.

Although the name of the North County chain was changed Thursday to West Coast Community Newspapers, no other changes in the newspapers' format are now planned, he said.

Donna Medeiros has been named new publisher of the chain. For the past three years, she has been publisher and chief operating officer of Rhode Island Community newspapers, an Independent News Corp. subsidiary.

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