Whaleys purchase Independent

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Scott Whaley
Woodie Whaley

The Chester County Independent has new owners. After 25 years and nearly a handful of different owners, history has repeated itself, and the Independent is once again a locally owned small business, having been recently purchased by Scott and Lisa Whaley. The Whaley name has been synonymous with ownership of the newspaper for 60 years since Whaley’s parents purchased the newspaper in 1965.
Woodie and Carolyn Whaley, along with their children Scott and Dee, moved to Chester County and purchased the Independent in 1965 from the T.D. Pace family. Woodie had worked for the Weakley County Press in Martin for several years. With ink in his blood, he saw the opportunity to purchase the publication on a leap of faith and decided to branch out on his own.
Whaley devoted all his energy to publish a quality newspaper each week until a heart attack took his life in 1975 ironically on the 10th anniversary of the purchase. He was 48.
Carolyn stepped in where he left off. She continued his dream at a time when few women owned and operated their own business. During this time, the industry was evolving rapidly from the “hot” type method of production that had been used for over 100 years with the introduction of the computer.
She maintained her position until 1990 when she passed the torch to Scott who had been involved in the business since the beginning. His first duties were sweeping the floor of the shop and delivering newspapers to the local coffee shop, the Electric Grill, where he “owned” the paper rack, and his allowance came from the sale of newspapers that were sold each week at 10-cents per copy. He literally grew up in the business working part-time after school, which continued throughout his high school and college years.
Upon graduation from Freed-Hardeman University, he began a full-time career at the Independent. He continued to upgrade the technology and oversaw the complete conversion to computer layout in the mid-1980s just as desktop computing was in its infancy.
“I remember the first computer that I bought and had no idea what to do with it,” Scott said. “I let it sit there a while before I figured out how to use it to expedite our business.”
He served as the Associate Publisher until purchasing the publication when he became publisher – a role that he has held for the majority of the past 30 plus years.
Originally located on South Washington St., where UrbanHouse is currently located, the Independent spent a short time at 127 North Franklin St., sharing a building with White Printing. In 1999, it relocated to its current location on South Church Ave.
In 1995, Whaley expanded the business and installed a state-of-the-art printing facility that printed 15 newspapers across West Tennessee, employing 20-25 employees.
“I had always wanted my own printing press and with the introduction of color in newspapers, I had the opportunity to produce color pages with the new press. We were one of the first weekly papers in the state to produce color photographs on a regular basis,” said Whaley.
In 1999, Whaley agreed to sell the Independent and the printing facility to Albrecht Newspapers in Cookeville. They were a small family-owned newspaper company that believed in community journalism and encouraged its publications to continue and expand on local coverage.
“When I sold the paper, I planned on getting out of the industry. I had spent most of my life around newspapers and their stringent deadlines. I was looking to slow down a little,” Whaley explained. “That didn’t last long. The new owner convinced me to stay, and I never missed an issue.” There were two more ownership changes over the next 25 years.
Coming full circle, the Independent is once again owned by a Whaley. “Lisa and I are so excited about the purchase,” Whaley said. “Even though I have done this all my life it feels different. I know how hard my parents worked and the sacrifices they made during their time of ownership. I think it’s only fitting that, as my career comes to a close over the next few years, that family ownership continues.”
“I am so thankful to Lisa Richardson, the owner of the company that previously owned the Independent, for agreeing to sell us the Independent,” Whaley said. Richardson’s company, Magic Valley Publishing Company is a Camden-based company that owns and operates 13 newspapers across West Tennessee.
Whaley was recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer of MVP and will continue in this role in addition to managing the Independent.
While newspapers across the country are closing at an alarming pace, Whaley said that he was (is) optimistic about the Independent. “We give our readers locally produced content about local folks,” Whaley said. “I like to call it refrigerator journalism. We want our readers to cut out photos of their children or grandchildren and post it on the refrigerator for posterity. We publish those stories you can’t get anywhere else.”
Whaley praised his employees. “I am proud to say that all the Independent’s employees are local residents that love this community. Marvin Croom, our advertising manager, has been here for the past 16 years.
“When I announced the purchase to employees, I told them that I wanted to once again become a small business that was more involved in the community, not just in the newspaper, but other ways as well. I have hired an additional staff writer that started work last week. Her responsibilities will include telling the stories that may have slipped through the cracks because of a limited staff.”
“I would encourage our readers, and we want more of them, to let us know of stories in the community or items of interest to the community,” Whaley explained. “Send us Letters to the Editor. We want local citizens to have a means of expressing their opinions on a variety of subjects. There are a few guidelines that must be followed but we want your opinion.
In addition to the recent purchase, Whaley has formed a print, digital and consulting business named Woodie Media in honor of his late father, providing consulting services to publications large and small.
“With 60 years in this business, if you include my floor sweeping era, I feel qualified to help clients maneuver these choppy waters of this profession,” Whaley said. “Most people are thinking about retirement at 65. I feel like I am just getting started. I’m excited for what the future brings.”
When asked what his main goal was for the Independent, he said he wants readers to better support the newspaper. “I’m proud of what we do and we’re a small business. We make our money through advertising sales and subscriptions. Give us a call and subscribe. You’ll be glad you did.”

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The Chester County Independent is a weekly newspaper, published on Thursdays, serving Chester County, Tennessee.

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