Greg Hoskins says his growing company aims to make the best newspapers better.
His firm, Better Newspapers Inc., based in Mascoutah, has purchased the Illinois Business Journal, based in Edwardsville, from owners Alan J. Ortbals and Dennis Grubaugh.
The sale was finalized on May 31 and brings to 21 the number of papers owned and operated by Hoskins, including several serving the Metro East market.
“We’re really glad to have a great paper like this to join our complement of community newspapers,” Hoskins said.
No significant changes are anticipated, he said.
The Illinois Business Journal prints 18,700 editions a month as a newspaper mailed to nonresidential addresses in Metro East. It also operates the news and advertising website, ibjonline.com, and publishes a weekly newsletter, IBJ Digital News.
The Illinois Business Journal was founded in 2000 by a longtime newspaper reporter, Kerry Smith, who in 2003 brought aboard Ortbals as co-owner. Ortbals’ background was in Southwestern Illinois economic development. Smith sold her stake in 2013, at which time Ortbals enlisted another longtime Southwestern Illinois newspaperman, Dennis Grubaugh, as partner. Smith returned to the IBJ in 2018 as marketing manager. All three individuals live in Edwardsville.
“The exit plan is an issue for every small-business owner,” Ortbals said. “The deal with Better Newspapers not only solves that problem for us but does so in a way that gives the Illinois Business Journal a bright future so that it will live on long after Dennis and I.”
Grubaugh will remain editor of the Illinois Business Journal. Ortbals, who is nearing retirement, will serve in a consultant role. Smith will continue to serve as marketing manager.
“I’m glad we found Greg to take over as owner,” Grubaugh said. “It gives the Illinois Business Journal the chance to continue to grow, using the resources of a much bigger operation dedicated to community newspapers.”
Grubaugh said the unique focus of the paper will continue to reflect the interests of the business community in Southwestern Illinois.
Hoskins, 62, is originally from Streator, Ill., but has lived many years in Mascoutah. His 20 other papers include the Mascoutah Herald, Fairview Heights Tribune, Troy Time-Tribune, the Clinton County News, the Scott Air Force Base Flier, Highland Shopper’s Review, the Nashville News and several other newspapers, mostly weeklies or shoppers in central and Southern Illinois and in southern Missouri.
Hoskins attended the University of Illinois where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. After graduation, he searched for a job but was finding it difficult due to the economy. He was told of an opening in the sales department at the Times Press, a local newspaper in Streator. Hoskins said he discovered a love and respect for newspapers at that company.
He later went to work for American Publishing Co. in West Frankfort. The experience took him to Arizona to work for Kramer Publications, which produced a daily newspaper and approximately 17 weekly newspaper and shopper publications.
Hoskins returned to Illinois in 1991 when he heard of a group of four weekly newspapers that was in bankruptcy court. He united with Cleon Birkemeyer, a friend from American Publishing, and bought the newspapers out of bankruptcy.
On May 1, 1991, Better Newspapers Inc., was formed, which included the Mascoutah Herald, Scott Flier, Clinton County News and Fairview Heights Tribune.
Hoskins went on to purchase the Mt. Zion Region News, Arthur Graphic – Clarion, Southern Piatt Record-Herald, Altamont News, St. Elmo Banner, Villa Grove News, Southern Champaign County Today, Bond and Fayette County Shopper, and three publications in Missouri.
He expanded his holdings in the past year with the purchase of the Nashville (Ill.) News and then, in January this year, the Troy (Ill.) Times-Tribune.
Hoskins and his wife Linda, who retired as a teacher’s aide with the Mascoutah school district, have three grown children, Scott and Mark, who are active in the newspaper company, and Emily, who is a psychologist in Nashville, Tenn.