A small-scale newspaper war is brewing in Issaquah and Sammamish. Black Press, a Puget Sound community-newspaper giant, announced Wednesday...

Share story

A small-scale newspaper war is brewing in Issaquah and Sammamish.

Black Press, a Puget Sound community-newspaper giant, announced Wednesday it is starting weeklies in the two affluent, fast-growing Eastside suburbs, already served by weeklies published by The Seattle Times Co.

The first editions of the Issaquah Reporter and Sammamish Reporter will appear Sept. 14, Black subsidiary King County Publications said.

Black Press, based in Victoria, B.C., already publishes about 30 weekly and twice-weekly newspapers in Western Washington. Few have competition from other non-dailies.

Over the past year, however, Black has been trying to build a network of community papers blanketing East and Southeast King County.

Until now, Issaquah and Sammamish were the most prominent cities outside that network.

“They needed to fill a hole on the Eastside so they could go after some major [advertising] accounts,” said Craig Dennis, publisher of the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, and a former executive with both Black and The Seattle Times.

The new Issaquah and Sammamish papers will publish Fridays and have a combined circulation of about 32,000, said Don Kendall, general manager of Black’s King County Publications. Like Black’s other local publications, they will be free.

“Our goal is to have a paper on every doorstep on the east side of Lake Washington,” Kendall said.

The new papers will compete with The Seattle Times Co.’s 107-year-old Issaquah Press and the Sammamish Review, which both publish Wednesdays and have a combined circulation of about 30,000.

Mike Shepard, president of The Times subsidiary that includes the two weeklies, said the company anticipated Black’s move and already has taken steps to counter it.

The Issaquah Press recently converted from paid to mostly free circulation. The Sammamish Review, always free, switched from twice-monthly to weekly publication earlier this year.

“These papers are well-positioned to compete,” said Shepard, a former Black Press executive. “They’ve got veteran staffs, from the publisher on down.”

Of the Black publications, he said, “you’re talking about Johnny-come-latelies to the Eastside.”

Black Press, which also owns the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, began its push in Seattle’s suburbs by purchasing nine nondaily papers and the now-closed daily King County Journal from Horvitz Newspapers last fall.

It switched six twice-monthly Horvitz papers — in Auburn, Covington/Maple Valley, Kent, Renton, Bellevue and Redmond — to twice-weekly publication and made a seventh, serving Bothell and Kenmore, a weekly.

In just the past four months, Black has started a new weekly in Sumner/Lake Tapps, bought a monthly paper in Kirkland and converted it to weekly publication, and purchased the weeklies in Marysville and Arlington.

Starting new papers in communities with established weeklies such as Issaquah and Sammamish is difficult, said Horvitz President Peter Horvitz. “They’re being very aggressive in going in there,” he said.

But the suburban network Black is building can’t be ignored, Horvitz added: “They’re a competitive factor now.”

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com