During U.S. Army service during World War II, Jack Smyth made the decision that he wanted a more meaningful career than working in the family jewelry store in Renovo, a poor railroad town in the Bucktail Mountains in north central Pennsylvania. Although he had no training or experience in the field, he decided that he would become a journalist after the war, due to his belief that newspapers played such an important role in a free society.
After his discharge from the Army, Jack purchased his hometown newspaper, the four-page Renovo Record. He learned the business by doing it. In 1952 he sold his hometown paper in order to purchase the Delaware State News in Dover, DE, then a weekly. He envisioned a five-day daily newspaper serving the state capital, which was launched on Sept. 14, 1953.
In 1969, Jack began having health problems and moved to Arizona. He sold the Delaware State News to his four children (including Joe, who was then the 26-year-old managing editor). Jack Smyth passed away in 1996 at the age of 80. His autobiography, “From Diamonds to Deadlines,” is available from Independent’s Company Library.
Joe Smyth bought his siblings’ stock in the early 1970s and changed the corporate name to Independent Newspapers, Inc. when the company started to expand beyond Delaware. (The name was changed to Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA in 2011.)
Joe wanted to ensure that the company would remain independent and dedicated to the practice of journalism as a public trust, with a commitment to citizen participation, free speech and independent journalism. After years of pursuing this vision, the IRS issued a private ruling in 1991 that allowed him to transfer 100% ownership to a new non-profit holding company.
The company now publishes community newspapers and other print and digital publications in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Its web offset printing plants in Arizona and Delaware also provide printing and related services to scores of other publishers in the Southwest and Mid Atlantic.
INI is a normal for-profit company that pays taxes the same as any other for-profit. It does not pay dividends to any individuals or groups, however, since it is 100% owned by INI Holdings, Inc., a non-profit membership corporation.
The five non-profit trustees serve staggered five-year terms, with a new trustee being elected each year. (Trustees must leave at the end of their five-year term, although they can later be elected to additional non-consecutive terms.)
They pledge to uphold the corporation’s articles and bylaws, to act as guardians of its purposes, and to perpetuate the tradition of allowing all after-tax profits to be reinvested in pursuit of the operating company’s journalistic mission. Other than receiving a modest honorarium for attending the annual meeting, they pledge to not benefit personally.
Trustees of the non-profit INI Holdings, in addition to those currently serving, have included Ben Bagdikian, former dean of Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and author of “The Media Monopoly”; Andy Barnes, former chairman and CEO of the St. Petersburg Times and Poynter Institute; the late Tony Biggs, retired publisher of the Elkhart Truth; Jim Binns, a lawyer, business leader and community activist; Bill Bishop, a journalist and former small-town publisher, author of 2009’s The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, and co-editor of The Daily Yonder, a webzine about rural America; Jody Brannon, a digital journalism pioneer, consultant and educator; Joann Byrd, former editorial-page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Billy Crews, civic leader and former CEO and publisher of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo; Gary Edens, owner of The Hanover Companies, Inc. in Phoenix and former chair & CEO Edens Broadcasting; Pete Eyerly, former publisher of the Bloomsburg (Pa.) Press Enterprise; Frank Denton, editor of the Tampa Tribune, former editor of the Wisconsin State Journal; futurist Katherine Fulton, president of the Monitor Institute; Mary Lou Fulton, former new media director for The Bakersfield Californian; Dick Gottlieb, former CEO of Lee Enterprises; Ginger Moorhouse, publisher and chairman of The Bakersfield Californian; the late Ted Natt, former publisher of the (Longview, Wash.) Daily News; Jerry Oliver, former chief of police in Louisville and Detroit; the late Jack Pfister, former general manager of Salt River Project in Arizona; Jan Schaffer, the founder and executive director of J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland; Michael Schudson, professor of communication and adjunct professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego; Tom Shaw, president and CEO of Chicago-area Shaw Newspapers; and Karny Stefan, the Chief Development Officer of Make-A-Wish® Arizona, the founding chapter of Make-A-Wish®