Veteran bullish over Scene’ deal

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A former co-owner and veteran staffer at Queenstown’s award-winning newspaper Mountain Scene is bullish about its sale – effective tomorrow. 

Frank Marvin, who started as advertising boss 30 years ago and still works part-time as a Mountain Scene journalist, says he’s glad the paper isn’t joining a foreign media group. 

“We’re not going to be a minuscule link in a big international newspaper chain.” 

Dunedin-based Smith family-owned Allied Press, publisher of the Otago Daily Times, has snapped up the tabloid weekly – dubbed the free voice of Queens­town – in a confidential deal with its longtime owner and founder Barry Thomas. 

Marvin, who sold out his half share in Mountain Scene to Thomas in 2006, says: “I’m delighted that if the paper had to change hands, that it’s going into the hands of a solid Southern publishing company which will take the paper into a new era. 

“Going back to the 1980s and 1990s when our company had other ancillary publications we did a lot of printing business with Sir Julian and Nick Smith and their Allied Press colleagues and I always found them very good to deal with and absolutely straight shooters.” 

Since news of the deal was announced simultaneously to Mountain Scene and ODT Queens­town bureau staff last week, Allied head honchos have spent time in Queenstown checking out Mountain Scene’s operation. 

ODT editor Murray Kirkness and group advertising boss Paul Dwyer have also visited Queens­town mayor Vanessa van Uden and council chief executive Adam Feeley to discuss the ownership change.
 
“It was just to press the flesh and reassure them it was business as usual as far as Mountain Scene was concerned,” Kirkness says. 

“We want Mountain Scene’s mojo to remain unchanged. There was no intention to buy it and mess around with it.” 

Kirkness confirms contributing partnerships Mountain Scene has with events like Winter Festival will continue this year. 

Kirkness says it’s not inevitable that the respective Queenstown teams at Mountain Scene and the ODT will be in the same building. 

“We’re still involved in talking with staff and working out the best way of operating in the future.” 

Van Uden says it’s good to hear there’s no intention to change the local paper. 

“It performs a role in the com­munity. It’s close to our hearts. Everybody – whether they love you or hate you – still get you on Thursday.” 

Exiting Mountain Scene publisher and general manager Richard Thomas says he officially finishes tomorrow, but will stay on in whatever capacity he’s needed to help spud in the ownership change. 

After that, he’ll dust off his CV, but is to remain a Mountain Scene director. 

“I’ll miss the excitement and drama of the newsroom when those big breaking and controversial news stories are evolving. And I’ll even miss the ensuing Friday morning ear-bashing and fallout.”