Family Owners Conference

Families talkin' ‘bout their g-g-g-generation


The kids are taking over one of the most popular sessions at the Family Owners & Next Generation Leadership Conference.

When family owners gather at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs Sept. 8 and 9, the Our Stories: Lessons From Member Media Organizations session will be led by three Gen Xers who have taken leadership positions at their families' media companies.

The three-Emily Walsh of Sarasota, Fla.-based Observer Media Group, Brian Jarvis of NCWV Media in Clarksburg, W.Va., and Virginia L. Cowenhoven of The Bakersfield Californian-will tell the origin story of their companies, and talk about their business models and their views on moving forward in this media environment.

They promise to be interesting stories, indeed.

NCWV Media, for instance, was created in 2012 when Brian Jarvis and his wife, Rachel, bought The Exponent Telegram in Clarksburg from the Highland family. But Jarvis' roots in newspaper go back much deeper. Through the 1990s his father, Cecil Jarvis, began acquiring shares in the Telegram from family members until he had amassed a stake of about 30% at his death. The younger Jarvis couple bought those shares and the remaining stake from the Highlands.

Since 2012, NCWV has grown through acquisition-purchasing a shopper, a niche sports weekly, a community weekly and a statewide business publication-and by creating three weeklies and a monthly magazine.

Like much bigger corporate publishers, NCWV has centralized copy editing, graphics and printing. And it has also steadily diversified its revenue stream by, among other things, acquiring a gas and oil servicing company that plugs old oil and gas wells. The couple now also own an energy drilling company that operates about 300 wells in West Virginia.

Emily Walsh has a somewhat similar story to tell.

Observer Media Group was founded in 1995 when her parents, Matt and Lisa Walsh, bought the Longboat Observer from its founder. But family roots also go deep in the newspaper business. Lisa Walsh's parents, David and Ruth Beliles began their newspaper careers in the 1950s in Illinois, and David Beliles' father was a circulation executive back in the 1940s, according to the "About Us" article on Observer websites.

Emily Walsh will be speaking as a member of the fourth generation of the family in the newspaper business.

She's the publisher of a family company that has grown from the single free weekly to include nine newspapers, six websites, an arts and social quarterly magazine and a paid business newspaper. According to its website, the company's newspapers and websites reach more than 200,000 readers a week.

Virginia Cowenhaven has a perhaps more well-known story as associate publisher for The Bakersfield Californian and youngest daughter of the newspaper's matriarch, Ginger Moorhouse.

With her appointment in 2014, the fifth-generation Cowenhaven became next in line to be publisher of the newspaper her great-great grandfather, Alfred Harrell, purchased in 1897.