News Corp.'s pending purchase of Dow Jones & Co. signals the end of an era for the Mail Tribune.

News Corp.'s pending purchase of Dow Jones & Co. signals the end of an era for the Mail Tribune.

The daily newspaper published in downtown Medford has changed hands just once since 1919 when Robert Ruhl acquired control of Southern Oregon's primary news gathering service. Campbell Hall, N.Y.-based Ottaway Newspapers purchased the Mail Tribune in 1973.

Ottaway purchased the Ashland Daily Tidings and The Nickel in October 2002. The three publications have a combined 197 employees.

Financial analysts addressing the Dow Jones deal in recent weeks have predicted that News Corp. likely will sell off the Ottaway group's eight daily and 15 weekly newspapers to another media organization. Even though Ottaway Newspapers are quite profitable — posting a $48.2 million profit last year on $252.2 million in revenue pitted against the Wall Street Journal's $33.9 million profit on revenue of $1.1 billion — community papers don't fit into Rupert Murdoch's overall business scheme.

Former Ottaway chairman Jim Ottaway Jr., whose father started the group and who controls about 7 percent of Dow Jones' stock, was an outspoken opponent of the deal.

Ottaway told the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Mass., he would not be interested in reacquiring newspapers.

"I would love to come back to New Bedford," Ottaway said. "But I don't think I could afford it. And I'm happily retired at 69."

Among the possible newspaper groups that could buy one or more Ottaway properties are GateHouse Media, MediaNews Group, Gannett Co., McClatchy Co., or Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., which acquired six Ottaway dailies on Oct. 27.

According to George Turnbull's "History of Southern Oregon Newspapers," the Mail Tribune's history began in 1888, when Thomas Harlan founded the Southern Oregon Mail as a weekly newspaper, published in Medford on Thursdays.

Several publishers came and went in rapid succession until a North Dakota man, A.S. Bliton, bought the newspaper in 1893 and rechristened it the Medford Mail.

In 1896, a newspaper called the Tribune appeared in Ashland. The twice-weekly Tribune was the creation of J.M. Potter, who published the paper in Ashland for a decade.

Readers had their choice of two daily newspapers in 1906, the morning Mail and the afternoon Tribune. The two papers merged in 1909, when George Putnam bought the Mail and created the Mail Tribune.

In 1911, Ruhl bought an interest in the Mail Tribune and the weekly Sun. Putnam ran the Mail Tribune until 1919, when he sold it to Ruhl and a partner, C. Sumpter Smith. Ruhl edited and published the Mail Tribune until 1967. His family continued to oversee the newspaper until 1973, when it was sold to Ottaway Newspapers and Stephen W. Ryder became publisher. Grady Singletary is the Mail Tribune's current publisher.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or at