Ailes Sells PCNR; Building Also on Market

Weekly newspaper now owned by its editor

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Elizabeth Ailes, owner and publisher of The Putnam County News & Recorder in Cold Spring, announced Dec. 13 that she has sold the 150-year old broadsheet and its 175-year-old sibling, The Putnam County Courier, which covers the eastern part of the county, to Douglas Cunningham, the papers’ editor and associate publisher.

The building that houses The PCNR is also for sale through A.D. Preusser Real Estate of Garrison for $1.15 million. Elizabeth Ailes and her husband Roger, the former chairman of Fox News, purchased the building at 144 Main St., in 2009 for $628,500 and completed extensive renovations.

Cunningham declined to disclose the purchase price of the two weeklies but refuted a rumor (one of many buzzing about Philipstown over the last few days) that Roger and Elizabeth Ailes offered it as a gift. “My accountant and banker can tell you I’m putting cash into it,” he said.

Roger Ailes, second from left, confers with developer Paul Guillaro at a Cold Spring Planning Board meeting in June. Douglas Cunningham is in the foreground. (File photo by Michael Turton)

Roger Ailes, the Republican political consultant and media mogul who was forced out of Fox News last summer after allegations of sexual impropriety, bought the newspaper in 2008 and Elizabeth Ailes became The PCNR’s owner and publisher. The enterprise expanded in 2009 with the purchase of The Courier. The couple has a home in Garrison.

Cunningham said on Dec. 13 that he and Elizabeth Ailes “are finalizing the papers now” for the sale and would complete the transaction by the end of the week. “I’m thrilled,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.” During his years at The PCNR, he said he has come to greatly enjoy Cold Spring and what it offers for small-town journalism.

Elizabeth Ailes (file photo)

Moreover, he said, The PCNR and Courier are “very sound newspapers,” adding that both have strong readerships and advertising support. Cunningham said that “in general” everything at the papers would proceed as normal under his leadership and that he would retain key staff members.

Cunningham, who resides in Milford, Pennsylvania, about an hour west of Cold Spring, said he and his wife, Sheila, plan to relocate to Garrison. They have three children, two of whom are in college and one in high school.

Cunningham became the editor of The PCNR in 2011. A graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, he is on the board of the New York Press Association. He spent 20 years at the Times Herald-Record, based in Middletown, as a business editor and columnist before becoming campaign manager for Republican Nan Hayworth in her successful bid in 2010 to represent the 19th District in Congress, which then included Philipstown.

Following Hayworth’s win, Cunningham was hired as public relations director of Focus Media in Goshen, which specializes in crisis management, market research and “representing developers in controversial land-use matters,” according to a press release from the time.

9 thoughts on “Ailes Sells PCNR; Building Also on Market

  1. The tremendous generosity of Roger and Elizabeth Ailes will be very much missed by many in the Village. It says a lot about the culture that infuses so much of Cold Spring that two of its biggest benefactors were held in such contempt by the powers that be and many of the residents whose high moral and political standards were such that they turned down a half-million-dollar gift that was intended for the seniors who live here. I wonder who’s going to pick up the slack when it comes to paying for the fireworks or the other items that were funded by the Ailes.

    I’m glad to hear that Mr. Cunningham will continue to publish the PCNR and the Courier. It means a lot these days to have actual printed newspapers available.

  2. “Two of its biggest benefactors…” What a twist of trying to buy over a small “hayseed” community with bluster and bombast and reactionary activities. If Cunningham can return the paper to journalistic integrity and not maintain this adversarial and in-your-face journalism, some of the many of us who abandoned the paper after the Ailes took over may return, as I held a subscription for years before their arrival.

    • Mr. Merante’s comment speaks volumes about the unique local culture of Cold Spring; that is, total intolerance for the expression of an opposing viewpoint if such is considered to be “conservative” or, dare I say it, “right wing.” I would like to know exactly what is meant by “journalistic integrity” or “adversarial, in-your-face journalism” other than the expression of opinions that differed from Mr. Merante’s own strongly held beliefs.

      Speaking of journalistic integrity, I can think of no better example than The Highlands Current when it comes to providing a forum for all sorts of opinions, regardless of one’s political persuasion. I know that there are probably any number of issues that I have written about in these comments that are probably at great odds with the politics of the editorial staff of this publication. Yet I have never been censored for expressing those opinions by either the former or current editor. Many thanks for defending free speech.

      • Consider yourself lucky that the PCNR’s “adversarial, in-your-face journalism” never turned its attack dogs on you. But please try to have some empathy for the myriad local residents and businesses that were flat-out targeted, disparaged and harassed because they dared to question the slant the PCNR continuously provided.

        I will be happy to send you links to this “coverage” privately, including that of me personally, as I have no desire to give further airing to that garbage.

      • As another local citizen who has been targeted by the PCNR, I second Mr. Daly’s comments. I also would be happy to provide an offline history and details of my encounters with the PCNR and its staff over a period of years. after I declined to renew my subscription because of the marked change in its character, tone and content after it was sold to the Aileses. Surely, no code of journalistic integrity permits reprisals against private citizens who do not wish to read what one publishes, but that is what I have experienced.

  3. I often miss Jack LaDue and my subscription to his newspaper. I hope Mr. Cunningham will not slant the news. If he has a view, it goes into an editorial, not in reporting, and likewise, he allows those in opposition to his “editorial” to voice their views in an Opinions column.

    Discourse is healthy. Opinionated news reporting is dishonest and disruptive. Philipstown people are smart, they know how to think and make their own decisions on an issue when given the facts.

  4. Ms. Villanova may be one of the few who was not a recipient of the gift of gall from the soon-to-be former owners of the historic PCNR. But, in view of the direction of her political commentary and the fact that she is a relatively recent arrival, one should not be surprised.