For new publisher of The Palladium-Times and The Valley News, newspaper roots run deep
By Ken Sturtz
When Sharon Lynett says she knows her way around newspapers, she means it.
The 38-year-old grew up in the newspaper business and is part of the fourth generation of a family that owns multiple newspapers.
“My great-grandfather purchased the Scranton Times in 1895 and we’ve been in it since,” she said.
In October, Lynett became publisher of Oswego County Media Group, which produces The Palladium-Times, The Valley News, the Finger Lakes Vacationer and the Oswego County Advertiser. She replaces Jeff Weigand, who had served as publisher since March.
Oswego County Media Group is owned by Pennsylvania-based Sample News Group. The family-owned media company’s holdings include more than 70 newspapers in six states.
Lynett was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Although she grew up around the news business, she was interested in government from a young age and initially pursued a different career path, attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where she majored in political economy.
She landed several internships on Capitol Hill while in college, which gave her a look at how the government worked.
Immediately after college she began working for Bob Casey’s 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. The race was one of the most competitive and highly watched in the country that year and saw Casey defeat two-term incumbent Rick Santorum.
After the election Lynett became a legislative correspondent in Casey’s Washington office, working on banking and tax issues (he served on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs). It was an incredible experience for a recent college graduate in her early 20s, she said. After two years she moved back to Pennsylvania to run Casey’s Scranton office. She enjoyed the work, but in 2013 decided to go in another direction.
“I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to get into the family business,” Lynett said.
The family business was Times-Shamrock Communications. The Scranton-based company’s flagship newspaper is the Scranton Times-Tribune, but its sprawling portfolio includes 15 print publications, 10 radio stations and dozens of websites as well as a variety of other businesses.
The family’s third generation had operated with an unusual leadership arrangement that saw three family members serve as co-CEOs, sharing decision-making and responsibilities. But the fourth generation was much larger, Lynett said, consisting of 20 people and she was on the younger end. So, the family created a management development program for relatives who wanted to move into leadership roles.
Participants were required to get a graduate degree and then work for an outside business for several years before working over a number of years in various departments at the company.
Lynett left Casey’s office and went back to school, earning a Master of Business Administration from the University of Scranton in 2015.
She spent a year working as a page designer and copy editor at one of the family-owned newspapers and a year as an account executive for several of its radio stations. She also spent time with department heads and top managers to better understand their roles.
Then, in 2018, the family made the decision to consolidate its media companies and other businesses under the management of a single, nonfamily leader. The family would still retain ownership of the business, but the family wouldn’t be handling operations.
“I had thought my career was set and I had to go in a different direction,” Lynett said.
She became director of marketing and communications for Lackawanna College in Scranton, working through COVID-19, which she said made her job far more challenging. She later left and began doing independent marketing and advertising work for senior living facilities in the region, helping them with their websites.
One day Lynett received a call from a former Times-Shamrock colleague who was now working for the Sample News Group. They had an opening for a publisher and she wanted to know if Lynett was interested in getting back into news.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.
Not only was she eager to return to the news business, but after working remotely through much of the pandemic she was also excited to get back to an office environment. Lynett drove up to Oswego to check out the area and was amazed at how beautiful and bustling it was. She was also surprised at how welcoming the community has been since she moved to Central New York.
“I miss the pulse of a community,” she said. “It’s exciting in this role that I have now to learn from people who have really made this community great.”
Moving forward, Lynett said, she wants to make changes to the front pages of the newspapers to make them more visually appealing for readers. She wants to move print deadlines back so editors can get more timely stories into the printed products.
She also sees opportunities for the newsroom to be more proactive about pushing out relevant stories and notifications to readers on digital platforms. Expect the organization to have a much more robust presence on its social media channels, too. She hopes some of the changes will be appealing to younger readers.
To help in her efforts, The Palladium-Times recently hired veteran journalist and former editor at The Post-Standard Charles Ellis to be its new managing editor. Ellis started the new position on Monday, Nov. 21 — Thanksgiving week. He will manage both newsrooms — The Palladium-Times and The Valley News, which operate out of the same building. Writers will produce stories for both papers.
Lynett also wants that newsroom to be more involved in the community.
“I think being close and being part of the community is so important,” she said. “You need those relationships, you need to know what’s going on and you need to know the right people.”
Lynett said that while all newspapers struggled during the pandemic, the Oswego County Media Group was on stable footing moving forward.
One thing that won’t be changing is the company’s emphasis on local news that matters to its readers. Lynett said she is keenly aware of just how important local news is to a community, especially now that more and more communities don’t have a local newspaper.
“Growing up in that industry and working in the newspaper world, it’s just in your blood,” she said. “It’s something you can’t help but to love and care about.”
Name: Sharon Lynett
Title: Publisher, Oswego County Media Group
Birth Place: Scranton, PA
Birth Date: March 13, 1984
Current Residence: Oswego
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political economy from Georgetown University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Scranton.
Affiliations: Started to volunteer with the United Way; plans to become involved with other organizations in near future.
Personal: Single. Has a dog, a Labradoodle named Sadie.
Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, visiting the beach and watching sports. She is a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and Georgetown basketball.