Sentinel ownership continues on to the next generation

Published May 5, 2016 at 11:47am

Ownership of the company that publishes the Rome Daily Sentinel was transferred to president and publisher Stephen B. Waters this past week, completing a smooth transition to the fifth generation of the Kessinger–Barnard–Waters family that Shirley and George Waters put in motion by gifting company shares to four children in December, 2012. 

Operation of the newspaper will not change and ownership and operation will remain local.

What has changed is that Stephen has arranged to acquire the minority shares of his non-local siblings, Nancy Kessinger Waters, Kristin Benton Waters, and Dean Lincoln Waters.

Sentinel history

At 152 years, the Sentinel is the seventh oldest family-owned newspaper in the United States. The Sentinel is descended from the Rome Republican, first published by Lorin Dewey in 1821. Ralph Waldby changed the name to Democrat Sentinel in 1838. In 1843 H. F. Utley and S. W. Morton became owners and changed the name to the Rome Sentinel.  

The Rome Sentinel first published as a daily newspaper, July 15, 1852, under Elon and Calvert Comstock. The daily was suspended in 1860 but the weekly continued.

According to Fritz S. Updike, “The
Sentinel became a daily in 1881 when Beers & Kessinger announced they would begin daily publication if 1,000 subscribers signed up. The first Daily Sentinel came out Dec. 19, 1881.” The semi-weekly continued until 1925.

On the leading edge of technology, the company founded WRUN-AM and WRUN-FM building transmitters in Oriskany and Clinton for both in the 1950s.

The community’s newspaper

Stephen Waters, who has worked at the newspaper for 42 years, said, “The family may own the company, but for generations it has been the community’s newspaper. Our family holds the newspaper in stewardship for the community. The Sentinel reflects what goes on in the community back to readers to weave us together. No other media — not radio, TV, or the Internet — presents local news and advertising as thoroughly.”

Community service

Waters emphasized how five generations of publishers have encouraged community growth, quality, and prosperity. “A. C. Kessinger helped establish the School for the Deaf. A. R. Kessinger served as mayor and head of the board that created our water supply, Brad Barnard, spearheaded and guaranteed Rome Free Academy Stadium. George Waters helped expand schools, Jervis Library, and Rome Hospital, Shirley and George helped create the Rome Community Art Center, I have been actively involved with economic development, and all generations have assisted the Chamber of Commerce and area governments.”