Local Newspaper Founder, Publisher Dies | Dunn-Rankin Bought a Weekly and Turned It into a Media Group

By Kimel, Earle | Sarasota Herald Tribune, April 19, 2016 | Go to article overview

Local Newspaper Founder, Publisher Dies | Dunn-Rankin Bought a Weekly and Turned It into a Media Group


Kimel, Earle, Sarasota Herald Tribune


VENICE

VENICE -- Derek Dunn-Rankin, the founding publisher and chairman of the Sun Coast Media Group, built a company that grew into one of the last independent media groups in the state of Florida.

Dunn-Rankin died last weekend at his home in Venice at age 88, just days before his flagship newspaper, the Charlotte Sun, won perhaps its greatest honor. The Sun's John Hackworth on Monday was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for a series of pieces about an inmate killed by corrections officers at the Charlotte Correctional Institution. In 2005, the Sun was a finalist for the Pulitzer for coverage in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Awards were far less important to Dunn-Rankin than was serving the community. He was a hard-working visionary who worked his way up through the delivery department and became respected in every aspect of the business, including his early recognition of the power of the internet.

"He was the consummate newsman," said Venice Gondolier Editor Ron Dupont. "He had the ability to see trends before they became trends.

"Back in the day when the internet was still fresh, when newspapers were just starting to experiment with it, he had the foresight to put a newspaper website together," added Dupont, who joined the paper in 1995 as city editor. "His big push was go forth and make it part of the community."

From the start, the Sun allowed readers to make their own web pages and over a three-year span, the newspaper taught internet classes to 50,000 people.

Long before that, Dunn-Rankin, fresh out of Rollins College, started in circulation at

the Miami News and later hired on with Landmark Communications to run the circulation department in Greensboro, North Carolina.

His son, David, recalls the days when the family of seven lived in a 1,200-square-foot house with one bathroom, as his father pursued his dream of owning his own newspaper.

Dunn-Rankin rose to be named president of the Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star -- Landmark's flagship paper in Norfolk, Virginia. He then started scouting potential acquisitions for Landmark, with an understanding that he was looking for his own paper, too.

Dunn-Rankin bought a small weekly in Venice, the Suncoast Times, which later merged with the Venice Gondolier in 1977.

In 1979, he bought the then weekly Charlotte Sun and under his auspices it grew into a daily paper. …

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