Omaha Reader Owner Takes Over as Publisher

Former publisher Beckmann leaves after founding paper six years ago.

After buying the Omaha Reader two months ago, wealthy department-store heir Alan Baer has taken over as publisher, adding a new wrinkle to the city’s increasingly fluid alternative newspaper publishing scene.

Baer, 77, filled the position vacated by former publisher Dan Beckmann, who resigned two weeks ago. According to Reader Editor Jim Minge, Baer also bought out Beckmann’s remaining five percent ownership stake in the paper.

The recent maneuvering at the Reader appears to be an about-face from Baer’s initial intentions when he bought the paper. “The main reason I bought into this was Dan,” Baer said in a March interview with AAN News. “He’s a helluva good man. He’s grown this paper from nothing. That’s why I wanted him to keep five percent, so he’ll stick around for at least another three or four years.”

In another interview with AAN News last week, Baer declined to provide a clear explanation for Beckmann’s departure.

“You know how life is,” Baer said. “[Dan’s] looking around Omaha to see what tickles his fancy.”

Baer, who has no previous publishing experience, said he doesn’t intend to make any other changes at the paper.

After Beckmann left, former Executive Editor Amy Goldyn was rehired. Goldyn had been relieved of her duties shortly after Baer acquired the paper. When Goldyn left, Omaha World-Herald entertainment editor Jim Minge was brought in to edit the paper.

Minge said he is now responsible for the Reader’s arts and entertainment coverage while Goldyn oversees the news content; he added that Baer gives them both a lot of freedom.

According to Minge, Baer also has been generous with new resources, installing new computer systems, hiring more people and purchasing a new fax machine that “actually works”.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, John Heaston’s new Omaha Weekly continues to evolve. Heaston, who co-founded the Reader with Beckmann in 1994, started his new paper two months ago with the funds he received in November when he sold his 40 percent interest in the Reader to Beckmann. The Weekly is a broadsheet, direct-mail publication.

Heaston believes the two papers can coexist in Omaha despite the fact that he took the Reader’s sales and business managers with him when he started the Weekly. “[The recent changes at the Reader are] not going to effect us at all,” Heaston said. “We have a different kind of mission, one that is more focused on news.”

He said the Reader will continue to fill the niche as the “ultimate hip paper” in Omaha.

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