Bingo Barnes Buys Boise Weekly

Present and former owners applaud local ownership

Bingo and Sally Barnes are now the official owner/operators of Boise Weekly, taking over August 1 from City of Roses Newspaper Company, which publishes Willamette Week and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Mark “Bingo” Barnes has taken the title of publisher/editor-in-chief at the Boise paper. Sally Barnes, a CPA and manager of information systems at National Airlines, is the paper’s new business manager.

The couple formed Barbar Inc., an Idaho-based corporation, to structure the deal, which was officially signed August 2 after a “virtual” contract was concluded by fax August 1. Neither Richard Meeker, publisher of Willamette Week and one-third owner of City of Roses, nor the Barnes would reveal the purchase price. Bingo Barnes says only that “personal finances” were used for the purchase.

“We are really proud to be a part of this community and to continue the good reporting and editorial success of this paper,” Barnes says. “There’s a lot of room to grow financially with this paper, and I think by being here, having our finger on the pulse, we’re going to be able to do that.”

Bingo Barnes is the former director of creative services for the Greenspun Media Group’s newspaper division, which includes the non-AAN alternative Las Vegas Weekly. Barnes’ alt background will allow him to handle both editing and art direction, eliminating two positions at the paper. Editor Sara Kuhl and art director Dave Goff already have been let go, while former arts editor Anna Webb was named managing editor, Barnes says. Publisher Sean Flaherty has been named general manager, he adds.

Kuhl had been editor since April 2000, coming to Boise Weekly from the Idaho Press-Tribune and 15 years in daily journalism. She declined comment for this article.

“I think Bingo and Sally Barnes are ideal candidates to run that paper,” says Meeker. “They have between them all of the skills an owner/operator needs. They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm and energy, they’ve got good business smarts, and I found them during our negotiations to be straightforward, honest, direct, friendly — just good people.”

“With his name, and being from Vegas, and now with his purchase of Boise Weekly, I’d say he’s a gambler. So I wish him and his wife good luck,” jokes Bob Speer, editor of the paper for the two years prior to its purchase by City of Roses.

“I’m glad to hear they’re moving to Boise and are going to operate the paper as a hometown enterprise,” Speer says. “My biggest hope is that they’ll commit to producing a strong editorial product, one that tells the stories the other media are missing or ignoring.”

City of Roses purchased Boise Weekly a little more than a year and a half ago from then owner/publisher Larry Ragan, adding it to Willamette Week and the Santa Fe Reporter. Ragan, who was replaced as publisher shortly after the City of Roses purchase, says the sale to the Barnes is “a good move for the city and the paper. It’s great to see it move back to a hometown focus.”

Meeker says the Idaho paper wasn’t a good fit for City of Roses.

“Obviously nobody buys a paper with the idea of turning around and selling it eighteen months later,” said Meeker. “The reason for selling it is a reason of scale. That paper generates approximately one-tenth the revenue of Willamette Week, and it’s just really hard to switch between managing papers of those two sizes.”

Ragan says City of Roses may have misunderstood the Boise market. “There’s just not a template for doing this and boom, it’s working,” he says.

Meeker agrees that “[Boise Weekly] really needs an owner-operator.”

Enter Bingo and Sally Barnes. Bingo Barnes got his start in the alternative industry as a layout designer at the Dallas Observer during the early 1990s, where he was promoted to art director. Over the next few years he acted as art director at several other regional publications in Dallas, then became founding editor of the short-lived national magazine Spirits and Cocktails, which lasted just two issues. After that he held several freelance illustration and design jobs before becoming art director at Las Vegas Weekly.

Sally Barnes has her masters of international management from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Arizona. She also has her CPA and an accounting degree from the University of Texas. She is a former director of mergers and acquisitions for Chancellor Media and was previously an information systems manager at American Airlines. She will give up her current position at National Airlines to move to Boise.

John Ferri is a freelance writer based in Tacoma, Wash.

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