Morris Communications, headquartered in Augusta, Georgia, is a privately held media company with diversified holdings that include newspaper and magazine publishing, outdoor advertising, radio broadcasting, book publishing and distribution, visitor publications and online services. Newspapers are the foundation and core business of the company owned by the Morris family since 1945. Today, the Georgia-based enterprise reaches across the nation, has holdings in Europe and employs 6,000 people.
Morris Communications is separate from Morris Multimedia, which was founded by Charles H. Morris, a member of the same family that founded Morris Communications.
Morris Communications was started in 1945, by the Morris family, under the name of Southeastern Newspapers, Inc., which later grew to become Morris Communications Corp. in 1970. However, the company traces its beginnings to a corporate structure dating from the 1800s. Even though its main thrust is newspaper publishing, the company also publishes magazines and specialized publications, books and distribution, radio broadcasting, visitor publications, event marketing, commercial printing and online services.
The Morris family was involved with the Augusta Chronicle, located in the U.S. state of Georgia, in 1929. 26-year-old William S. Morris Jr., father of today's chairman and CEO, became a bookkeeper at the daily newspaper. Today, Morris Communications maintains corporate headquarters only a few blocks from the site of its modest beginnings.
In 1945, Morris and a friend purchased the newspaper. Ten years later, Morris, and his wife Florence, bought the remainder of the outstanding stock, along with the afternoon Augusta Herald. Billy Morris, who delivered newspapers from horseback in his hometown as a boy, joined the company in 1956, a few days before his 22nd birthday, as assistant to the president. He became publisher of the two Augusta newspapers and president of the corporation 10 years later.
With the two Augusta newspapers as its base, the company started its expansion with the purchase of a radio station and a television station in Augusta and two other daily newspapers in Savannah and Athens, Georgia. After purchasing those two, the company expanded to Alaska, followed by Texas, and then Florida. The company acquired its largest-circulation paper, The Florida Times-Union and also another daily, The St. Augustine Record, with the purchase of Florida Publishing Co., located in Jacksonville on January 1, 1983.
In 1985, Morris Communications moved into outdoor advertising with the purchase of Naegele Outdoor Advertising Inc., which was renamed Fairway Outdoor Advertising.
Morris Communication’s largest expansion in numbers of properties occurred in 1995 with the purchase of all outstanding stock of Stauffer Communications, Inc., in Topeka, Kansas. The purchase included daily newspapers, nondaily newspapers, shoppers, television and radio stations and other properties.
Strengthened by this merger, Morris Communications has continued to grow and seek diversity in holdings that further its objective of becoming the pre-eminent source of news, advertising, entertainment and related services in the communities it serves.
Understanding the profit potential in the travel industry and the clear synergy with its existing presence in outdoor recreation markets, Morris purchased Best Read Guide Franchise Corp. in 1997. Morris added the upscale in-room travelers guides Guest Informant and Where® in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Now, the second-largest Morris division is Morris Visitor Publications, which provides advertisers with a targeted vehicle to attract literally trillions of dollars to their businesses.
The company expanded overseas in 1998 with the acquisition of Cadogan Guides, London, England, and created Morris Publications Ltd. UK, a subsidiary of Morris Communications. Later that year Morris purchased London this Week, a visitor publication now named the LONDON PLANNER.
On May, 18, 2015, Morris announced that it has sold its 36 radio stations to Alpha Media. The deal was finalized and Alpha Media took control of the Morris radio stations on September 1.
Morris Publishing Group
Morris Publishing Group (MPG) was formed in 2001 and assumed the operations of the newspaper business segment of its parent, Morris Communications Co. The company has a concentrated presence in the Southeast. MPG, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Morris Communications Company LLC and publishes 12 daily, 11 nondaily and numerous free community newspapers in the United States.
Morris Publishing sold fourteen newspapers, mainly the former Stauffer papers, to GateHouse Media in 2007.
The company publishes 11 daily newspapers and a number of non-daily newspapers with a combined circulation in the range of 700,000. They include the St. Augustine Record in St. Augustine, FL, the Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, GA, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, FL, the Topeka Capital-Journal in Topeka, KS, the Amarillo Globe-News in Amarillo, TX, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Lubbock, TX, the Athens Banner-Herald in Athens, GA, the Savannah Morning News in Savannah, GA, the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, AK, the Juneau Empire in Juneau, AK.
The company publishes 16 non-daily newspapers. They include Bluffton Today in Bluffton, SC, Bryan County Now in Bryan County, GA, Business in Savannah in Savannah, GA, the Capital City Weekly in Juneau, AK, the Columbia County News in Augusta, GA, Effingham Now in Effingham County, GA, Frenship Today in Lubbock, TX, the Hampton County Guardian in Hampton, SC, Hardeeville Today in Hardeeville, SC, the Homer News in Homer, AK, the Jasper County Sun in Hardeeville, SC, the News and Farmer and Wadley Herald and The Jefferson Reporter in Wadley, GA, North Augusta Today in Augusta, GA, the People-Sentinel in Barnwell, SC, the Pine River Journal in Cass County, MN, and the Sylvania Telephone in Sylvania, GA.
- William S. Morris III, chairman
- William S. Morris IV, CEO
- Derek May, president of newspapers
- Craig S. Mitchell, senior vice president of finance, secretary, and treasurer