Wethal, Nesbitt, Feiner win first place awards from Wisconsin Newspaper Association

From right, Unified Newspaper Group sports editor Mark Nesbitt, news editor Kimberly Wethal and government reporter Mackenzie Krumme all won first place awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association on Feb. 19.

Effective June 30, the Fitchburg Star will have a new parent company.

Woodward Communications, Inc., which has owned Oregon-based Unified Newspaper Group for nearly two decades, announced the sale of the business to Wisconsin Media Group, owned by O’Rourke Media Group, in a June 10 email to employees. News and advertising staff were informed of the sale in the hours prior to the email announcement.

O’Rourke Media Group is a family-owned, community focused media company that launched in October 2018, according to a company release. The group acquires hyperlocal, print and community newspapers that “apply our strategic playbook that results in digital transformation,” the release states.

Unified Newspaper Group publishes the Oregon Observer, Verona Press, Stoughton Courier Hub, Fitchburg Star, The Great Dane Shopping News and Corre la Voz, the Spanish-language newspaper reporting educational news for Verona Area School District residents, operating out of 156 N. Main St. in Oregon.

WCI decided to sell UNG and its publications because its geographical location in southwestern Dane County places it outside of the core strategic cluster in Iowa, where many other WCI publications are located, the email announcement read.

“Joe Mathes (WMG general manager) and I are extremely excited about entering the Madison market with this excellent group of community newspapers and talented team that’s in place,” WMG chief executive officer Jim O’Rourke said in the WMG release.

WCI will be working with UNG to provide “creative, layout and circulation services” for a month or two afterward as part of the transition, according to the release. WCI acquired Stoughton Newspapers in 1993 and Schroeder Publications in 1998, which was then brought together under the name “Unified Newspaper Group.”

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie. 

Emilie Heidemann joined Unified Newspaper Group in 2018, where she serves as the community and business editor for four publications, as well as a quarterly magazine. Emilie covers the Village of Oregon and Fitchburg community beat.