Investigative Report: Idaho Dispatch is digging into who owns the newsrooms in Idaho. Who controls what the public sees and hears? Who decides what information is worthy of publishing? What is the culture of these organizations, and what are the factors in their decision-making?
In Part One of this series, Idaho Dispatch brought you the names of the companies or organizations that own many of the newsrooms in Idaho. We provided links to their webpages for the public to inspect for themselves. You can view the article here: Idaho – Who Controls the Information You’re Receiving? – Idaho Dispatch
In Part Two we brought you information on ESG and DEI culture and policies that govern the companies who own the newsrooms in Idaho. Find that report here: Investigative Report Part Two: Idaho – Are ESG and DEI Influencing the Information You’re Receiving? – Idaho Dispatch
Here in Part Three, we bring you a glance into the privately-owned company Adams Publishing Group (APG).
APG was created by Mark Adams, one of four sons of Stephen Adams, and grandson of Cedric Adams.
According to this source, Stephen Adams, a graduate of Stanford Business School, started and operated multiple business endeavors throughout his career including advertising companies, community banks, and Camping World. The APG website says,
“Other Adams family enterprises include radio, wine, Camping World/Good Sam (recreational vehicles), and significant philanthropic endeavors.”
Adams was also a graduate of Yale. According to this 2008 Yale Alumni Magazine article and interview, Adams revealed that a 2005 anonymous gift of $100 million to Yale Music School had come from the Adams Family Foundation, which is operated by him and his wife Denise Adams.
The article also includes this exchange:
Yale: “Your advertising company donated about $1 million in billboard advertising for the campaign of George W. Bush [’68] in 2000. What did you like about his policies?”
Stephen Adams: “At the time, I liked the fact that he was considered a conservative Republican, his background was Yale, he was Skull and Bones, and his fiscal policies were considered conservative.”
It is challenging to find information about Stephen Adams that is not owned or controlled by the Adams family businesses. Here you are able to see the history of Affinity Group Holding, Inc. and the several companies controlled by Stephen Adams.
From this source, additional information is offered linking Stephen to The Affinity Group, an investment firm affiliated with Affinity Bank:
“…billionaire private equity investor Stephen Adams who was born and raised in, you guessed it, Minnesota. This is the same Stephen Adams whose holding company, The Affinity Group, changed its name a couple years ago to Good Sam Enterprises after losing tens of millions of dollars with its investments and having Standard & Poore’s drop its credit rating to D for “the company’s highly leveraged financial profile, weak operating outlook, and limited liquidity.” One of the more interesting holdings of Adams was Affinity Bank, which Federal regulators shut down in 2009 because of depleted capital reserves.”
The same article attempts to prove the connection between Stephen Adams of The Affinity Group and APG by providing this link, but as you can see, the content has now been removed.
This source does corroborate the claim that Affinity Bank was seized by federal regulators in 2009.
Also in 2009, The Affinity Group’s corporate credit rating dropped to a “D” by Standard and Poor’s (S&P):
“We lowered our corporate credit rating on Affinity Group Holding Inc. (AGHI) and its operating subsidiary Affinity Group Inc. (together referred to as “Affinity Group”) to ‘D’… “
Stephen’s father, family patriarch Cedric Adams, was a beloved Minneapolis radio host. According to WCCO NewsTalk 830,
“WCCO broadcasters were substantial celebrities across the Midwest. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Cedric Adams who first appeared on WCCO in 1931, and broadcast on the station until his death in 1961. Pilots flying over the upper Midwest reported watching the lights go out all over the region each night when Adams finished his 10:00pm newscast.”
Why would a third-generation, extremely rich, media-savvy man like Mark Adams create APG, a company to buy small market newspapers that have been on the decline? Quoted in this source mentioned above, and coming out of leaked slides from a presentation,
“Adams mentions that they [small newspapers] are out of favor and available at “low valuation multiples.” Local brands and exclusive local content have a bright future….”
As previously noted, APG owns the following Idaho newsrooms:
- Post Register, Idaho Falls
- Idaho State Journal, Pocatello
- Standard Journal, Rexburg
- Bingham News Chronicle, Blackfoot
- Teton Valley News, Driggs
- Jefferson Star, Rigby
- Challis Messenger, Challis
- Farm & Ranch, Idaho Falls
- Journal Extra, Rexburg
- Star Plus, Rigby
- Idaho Press, Nampa
- Messenger Index, Emmett
- Kuna Melba News, Kuna
- Meridian Press, Meridian
- Boise Weekly, Boise
- Deals 2C, Nampa/Caldwell
- Preston Citizen, Preston
- News-Examiner, Montpelier
In less than a decade, the company has become a major player in the nationwide news community. From the APG website,
“Since its first acquisition in March 2014, APG has grown quickly, consisting of 30 dailies, over 100 non-daily, and collectively over 220 media-related products and associated websites in 19 states.”
From this source, this map shows the breakdown of APG dailies and weeklies in 2017, just three years after their launch:
This map from APG’s website shows where the company now currently owns news organizations across the US.
In the video, Adams explains why he believes it is important to invest in community newspapers.
The loss of local news outlets can be concerning for a number of reasons, but one consequence people may not realize is the increased political polarization in communities that lose their papers to large organizations. According to the News Literacy Project,
“…one surprising result of the decrease in local news coverage, according to three researchers who studied the media’s influence on voters, is how it affects the way people vote: The populace tends to become more polarized.”
Nieman Lab describes here the studies done on this topic. They conclude,
“When they lose local newspapers, we have found, readers turn to their political partisanship to inform their political choices. If Americans can tear themselves away from the spectacle in Washington and support local news with their dollars and attention, it could help to push back against the partisan polarization that has taken over American politics today.”
News Literacy Project also reports how low the United States’ press freedom has fallen in recent years.
“In recent years, press freedom in the U.S. has fallen as low as 48th in 2019, based on rankings of 190 countries and regions by Reporters Without Borders (also known as Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF). After moving up to 42nd place in 2022, the U.S. fell three spots to 45th place in the 2023 index.
Through the World Press Freedom Index, RSF tracks how freely reporters are allowed to do their jobs, considering factors such as the number of abuses and acts of violence against journalists, the degree of self-censorship felt by journalists, and the independence of media outlets.”
Miste Karlfeldt of the Idaho Dispatch reports on Adams Publishing Group from our newsroom:
Tags: Adams Publishing Group, APG, Bingham News Chronicle, Boise Weekly, Camping World, Cedric Adams, Idaho Press, Idaho State Journal, Kuna-Melba News, Mark Adams, Meridian Press, News Literacy Project, Nieman Lab, Political polarization, Post Register, Press freedom, Stephen Adams, Teton Valley News, WCCO Minneapolis