Fifty two weeks and 1,352-plus pages of newsprint later, the Webster-Kirkwood Times is celebrating its one-year anniversary of returning to print under the new employee ownership group.
Times employees Randy Drilingas, Jaime Mowers and Kent Tentschert — along with Kent’s brother, Eric Tentschert — purchased the paper from longtime publisher Dwight Bitikofer in September 2020. Bitikofer, who started the paper in 1978, suspended the print publication in March 2020 due to the pandemic. When it became clear the paper would shut down indefinitely, the employees — spurred by repeated requests from the community — stepped in to save it.
“Even though we continued to cover news and publish stories online when the print publication was suspended, all we kept hearing was, ‘When are you going to start printing again?’” Times Editor-in-Chief Jaime Mowers said. “Without all of the asks, we wouldn’t have taken the risk.”
It was a risk worth taking, and what makes it worth it remains the same — the overwhelming support from those in the communities the newspaper serves. That support has come in many forms — from readers, community leaders, school districts, city governments and all of the local businesses advertising in the pages of the paper every week.
“It’s been an incredible year,” Mowers said. “We want to thank everyone who has made this past year possible — we can’t say thank you enough. We’re so grateful to the community and our advertisers who continue to make it possible for us to print the paper each week, and we look forward to continuing to grow and keeping community journalism alive for our readers in our area.”
The Times owners believe local newspapers, wherever they may be, are vital to the communities they serve.
The owners are thankful that so many in the communities of Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Glendale, Oakland, Des Peres, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury and Warson Woods believe that, too.
“It’s easy to know what’s going on in the world, but to know what’s going on in my neighborhood is only accomplished with community news, as the Webster-Kirkwood Times provides,” Kirkwood resident Jacqueline Concannor said.
Many community members have noted that getting the paper delivered in its signature red wrapper again each week has helped them feel and stay connected throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“We were so devastated during the height of the pandemic to learn that the WKT was going away,” Jenny Detert of Kirkwood said. “My husband and I are both health care workers on the front lines and your paper brought a bit of normalcy to our strange lives during this time. We were thrilled when the paper returned, better than ever.”
Up For The Challenge
Starting — or taking over — a business is a challenging endeavor under ideal circumstances, but doing it during a global pandemic brings its own difficulties.
Like many other businesses, the Times has faced a number of challenges over the past year. Operating with a smaller staff, securing enough carriers to deliver the paper each week and quickly revamping sections of the paper when community events were canceled due to COVID-19 are just a few of the obstacles the paper has navigated.
“We’ve faced a number of challenges over the past year, but we’ve also had a lot of successes. We learn something new just about every day, and we’ll keep learning and adapting,” Times Publisher Randy Drilingas said. “Even though we have a small staff, what they’ve been able to accomplish this past year is truly amazing and we couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Times can count several awards and recognitions among its successes in the past year. In March 2021, the Times was one of nine businesses in the 63119 area code to receive a “Creativity In Crisis 2020” Award from the Webster Groves/Shrewsbury/Rock Hill Area Chamber of Commerce for bringing the paper back in print during the pandemic.
The paper has also picked up several awards from the Missouri Press Association, been featured in a study about community newspapers and used as an example among its peers in the industry for its efforts and dedication to community journalism.
Here’s To Another Year
The Webster-Kirkwood Times is looking forward to continuing the tradition of community journalism that started 43 years ago with the paper’s first issue.
None of it would have been possible without the community’s support over the years.
“We are so grateful, and we’re going to continue needing this support as we head into the next year,” General Manager Kent Tentschert said, noting its crucial for readers to support the paper’s advertisers. “The advertisers you see in our paper are your friends, neighbors and family members who are supporting the paper through their ads. We hope you’ll continue to support them so we can continue to bring you the news.”
The Webster-Kirkwood Times has a circulation of 35,800. It is delivered to homes free of charge every Thursday/Friday to residents in Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Glendale, Oakland, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury and Warson Woods.
The paper is also available at area supermarkets and at several other store stack locations. To find the nearest location, visit www.websterkirkwoodtimes.com and click on “Pick Up A Paper” under the Delivery menu at the top of the page. Paid subscriptions for those outside of the normal coverage area are also available.
How To Support The Times
We thank everyone who has so generously supported the Times over the past year.
In addition to donations, supporting the advertisers that appear within the pages of the Times is the best way to ensure the paper’s continued success in providing local news to the communities it serves.
By supporting the Times, readers are helping to promote awareness of news and events. Local news is vital for healthy communities, and we believe it should be available to everyone, delivered to homes in the area at no cost.
Please continue to patronize the advertisers in these pages and keep an eye out for our annual pink contribution envelopes that will be distributed with the paper in October. Donations can also be made at www.websterkirkwoodtimes.com, and checks can be made out to the Webster-Kirkwood Times and mailed to 122 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119.
WKT On Radio63119
Webster-Kirkwood Times Publisher Randy Drilingas and Editor-in-Chief Jaime Mowers were recently featured on the Radio63119 show, “Taking Care of Small Business.”
In the interview, which aired on Wednesday, Sept. 22, Times owners spoke with host Mark Sauter about the challenges and successes throughout the past year.
Listen to the interview at tinyurl.com/542bxwbb.
The show will also air at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, on Radio63119 at 92.9 FM.
“Taking Care of Small Business” is designed to educate listeners on the ins and outs of small businesses and connect them with guests who can provide advice and services related to small businesses.