WITF to receive Lancaster-based news organization as gift

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WITF's headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa.

Steinman Communications, a family-owned company in Lancaster, Pa., is gifting several of its news properties to joint licensee WITF.

As part of the deal, the pubcaster in Harrisburg will receive the daily newspaper LNP and its website, LancasterOnline. It will also receive The Caucus, a publication that covers Pennsylvania’s state government, and two weekly newspapers, The Lititz Record-Express and The Ephrata Review.

The boards for WITF and Steinman Communications greenlit the gift and receipt last month. Financial details were not disclosed. As the deal progressed, Krasne and Hetrick consulted with Public Media Co., the Colorado-based firm that has assisted with many mergers and acquisitions.

In preparation for the transfer, which is expected to be finalized in June, Steinman is converting LNP Media Group to a Pennsylvania Benefit Corporation, making it a for-profit entity that will have a mandate to create public benefits in addition to pursuing commercial objectives. LNP Media Group is the company that operated the newspapers.

WITF and Steinman also announced the creation of the Steinman Institute for Civic Engagement, which will be overseen by WITF and funded by a donation from the Steinman Foundation. The institute will support early childhood education initiatives, STEM education, media literacy and civic engagement programs. It will also provide training opportunities for journalists.


WITF CEO Ron Hetrick will continue to lead the public media company and will oversee its new subsidiaries. Robert Krasne, chairman and CEO for Steinman Communications and co-chair of the Steinman Foundation, will chair the new Steinman Institute.

The board for Steinman Communications considered selling LNP Media Group but wanted to give its news operations to WITF because it wanted a mission-focused entity to preserve the news products, according to Krasne. He also wanted to avoid the fate of many media mergers that result in “synergies” or “efficiencies” and lead to layoffs.

“At the end of the day, there was nobody [else] committed to maintaining the size of the newsroom,” he said. Other operators “were really motivated by profits rather than purpose.”

“On the Steinman side of the equation, we were looking at ways to expand our reach and coverage, and engage in what we do in greater depth,” Krasne said. He said he first encountered Hetrick at an event that focused on how to address news deserts. “Ron did a masterful job of leading the discussion … and as an outgrowth of that, we reached out to Ron to have a conversation,” Krasne said.

Hetrick said the deal with Steinman Communications helps WITF expands its ability to produce local news and increase civic engagement in the 19 counties it serves in the south-central portion of Pennsylvania.

“As part of our strategic planning, knowing that TV audiences are declining and radio has some moderate growth, we believe that our long-term sustainability is in having deep connections with the community,” Hetrick said.

No plans for job cuts

Public broadcasters have made efforts in recent years to navigate the shifting media landscape by expanding local news production through acquisitions. The WNET Group in New York acquired the public policy newsroom NJ Spotlight, paving the way for NJ Spotlight News, a multiplatform newsroom that produces a digital news site and NJ PBS’ daily public affairs program.

Other deals have included WTVP in Peoria, Ill., purchasing the intellectual property of a local monthly magazine; Chicago Public Media acquiring the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper; and KERA in Dallas taking over operations of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

The deal between WITF and Steinman Communications, which has been in the works for a little less than a year, differs from other recent arrangements because it stemmed from a gift. Beverly Steinman, chair emeritus for Steinman Communications and co-chair emeritus for the family foundation, noted in a video that her family had owned LNP for 158 years but added that she’s “excited and proud to see WITF carry on my family’s legacy.”


Hetrick and Krasne said no staffers will be cut at WITF and its new subsidiaries. “While there’s going to be some integration of leadership … no one is going to lose their job at any level as a result of this transaction, and in fact we will likely be making many new hires over the next couple of months to support our vision for this,” Hetrick said.

The publishing schedules of LNP, a daily newspaper, and other properties will not change.

Krasne told LNP that he expects the newspaper to operate at the same size or larger for the next five years. LNP Media Group has approximately 150 employees, 70 of them reporters and editors. LNP has a circulation of around 42,000 on Sundays and more than 35,000 on weekdays. Its website, which has about 12,000 paid subscribers, will continue to operate with a subscription model under the leadership of Tom Murse, executive editor.

WITF has 70 full-time employees and 25 part-time employees. The organization earned $17 million and made $1.2 million in profit in fiscal year 2022, according to its most recent IRS 990.WITF and LNP Media Group will continue to have separate boards “but with a degree of overlapping representation to ensure alignment with a combined vision and enterprise-wide goals,” according to an FAQ page. The organizations also said that the new operating structure will create “marketing opportunities for underwriters and advertisers to reach both LNP and WITF audiences.”

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