More information is becoming available regarding the state of the area’s weekly newspaper, the Sedalia Observer.
The publication ceased its print edition last month, distributing the last edition Oct. 1. It no longer has any employees, and some haven’t been fully paid.
“(The) graphic artist Agee wasn’t getting paid, so he left and got another job. And (Greg) told (Consulting Editor) Pete (Daniels) to stop coming to work to typseset public records. So I’ve been the only one at the office the past month or so,” Managing Editor Randy Kirby told the Democrat in an email. “And with no money coming in from advertising, it all came to a halt. I can’t do it all by myself, with no graphic artist and no advertising or circulation department.”
Kirby added that the website continues to be updated because he likes doing it, despite the fact he has not been paid since September and is looking for employment.
The paper has been owned by Chad Melton, son of original owner Greg Melton, since January 2014, but he left Sedalia abruptly in April to return to Nashville, Tennessee. Both Kirby and Daniels said Greg has been helping the paper since July, but Greg declined to comment to the Democrat, stating he is not associated with the paper and it is still owned by Chad.
Both Kirby and Daniels didn’t know the circumstances of why the paper stopped printing — Kirby said he designed the Oct. 8 and 15 editions but never saw them come back from the printer — but said they assumed it was due to lack of revenue.
Daniels previously served as editor of the Observer until 1992 when he retired. He has recently been working part-time at the paper doing “keyboard entry-type work” and writing a column, and he said he wasn’t “in on a lot of the discussion that went on” regarding the business. He stopped working there almost a month ago.
“(I stopped working) when Greg came to my house and told me there was no point in coming in and that was about three weeks ago, primarily for lack of revenue as I understood it,” Daniels said.
Observer subscriber Jim Bales said he hasn’t received a copy of the Observer since mid-September and he paid for a yearlong subscription in July. He hasn’t received any response on whether he will be reimbursed or start receiving copies.
“I tried putting things on the Facebook page … I sent an email to the link on the website, someone dealing with subscriptions, and they sent an email back and said they were no longer with the company and I needed to email Randy Kirby. No response, no calls,” Bales said.
“Just simply tell me you’re out of business,” he added. “I’d be happy with any type of response, not that I like giving money away. I’d just like to know.”
Fellow subscriber Bessie Harrison has also had a hard time contacting the Observer. Harrison paid for a yearlong subscription in August and stopped receiving copies in October. She has even gone as far as contacting the Better Business Bureau and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office.
“Oct. 22, I called (the Observer) and no one would answer the phone. I called Oct. 23 and no one answered. I called (Wednesday) and it’s disconnected,” Harrison said. “I think that is a rip-off deal — there’s several people in town I’m sure that have paid for that paper. … I think they ought to be made to pay that money back to the people who bought the paper.”
“I’m sympathetic with the subscribers, I think it’s a shame it happened this way,” Daniels said. “They should have been given some warning if possible, but other than that I have no idea how this is going to end or how long the website is going to be open.”
Greg told the Democrat he talked to Chad Wednesday afternoon and said Chad plans to send a letter to subscribers in the next seven to 10 days explaining what is happening, but it may take some time as he is busy with a full-time job in Tennessee.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.