Power of the press
Southwest Tulsa advocates Linda Jordan and husband Gary Percefull embark on their latest community contribution — saving a southwest Tulsa newspaper.
Linda Jordan and Gary Percefull don’t just talk about community involvement; they live it. In June, rather than let a southwest Tulsa newspaper, the Tulsa County News, close, the couple purchased the weekly publication. They also run the Scissortail Group, a public relations firm based out of a house they renovated on Southwest Boulevard. In addition to running their own firm, Percefull serves as president of the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education and volunteers for several other area nonprofits. Jordan serves on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women and volunteers for several area nonprofits, including serving as president of the RedFork Main Street board of directors.
The two met more than 13 years ago when Gary hired Linda to do some bookkeeping for his public relations firm. As their work together developed, so did their relationship, and the couple married eight years ago.
In an age when many say newspapers are dying, what made you decide to purchase the Tulsa County News?
Gary Percefull: The paper began publishing in 1922 and is a staple in southwest Tulsa. When Community Publishers Inc. announced they would close TCN, it was a big shock — this paper is important to the community here.
Linda Jordan: We found out they were closing just a few weeks after the Tulsa World closed its Community World offices. We were afraid there would not be any coverage of what was going on in southwest Tulsa. There were so many good things going on over here (such as the RedFork Main Street program, Vision 2025 improvements, school expansions and an Oklahoma Centennial project).
GP: I got nominated to go talk to the publisher and asked them if they would reconsider their decision to close the paper and asked if there was anything we could do. They said no.
Linda said maybe we should buy it, and I said we didn’t want to work that hard … this is like going out at our age and adopting twins. One thing led to another and we ended up owning the newspaper.
Have you made changes to the newspaper since buying it? How does running the TCN fit with everything else you do?
GP: We immediately set about to make some changes — we took it from a tabloid to a broadsheet and we worked with longtime editor Anna Brown, who we were able to hire, to focus our content on local news of interest to southwest Tulsans. We also have hired a part-time designer and an advertising sales manager. In just a few months, our circulation increased by about 50 percent.
LJ: We have another full-time business, so we really depend on this team, and they do a good job for us.
GP: We partnered with the League of Women Voters to do a voter registration/voter education campaign and we saw area registrations increase after decreasing for the past few years.
What brought you to southwest Tulsa and, aside from running the TCN, how are you involved in the area?
GP: It was time for us to move out of our downtown Tulsa office and I just found this little house. We thought it was kinda cool to do an adaptive reuse project here on Route 66. Linda and I are kind of like aliens since we didn’t grow up here, but the community has really opened up and received us and now we feel like southwest Tulsans.
GP: We decided to be southwest Tulsans and really jumped headlong into the community. Last spring, we purchased the house next door and converted it to business use.
LJ: One of the things we are proud of is that we donate space in the house next door to RedFork Main Street and Volunteer Central of Greater Tulsa — two nonprofits that weren’t here before. At least 30 percent of our time is volunteer work. We encourage all of our employees to get involved as much as they possibly can.
GP: We really want to make this work out; we want southwest Tulsa to flourish. If you needed an epitaph for us, it would be, “They helped Tulsa grow.”
What are the challenges and benefits of working with your spouse?
LJ: I don’t know what the challenges are; there aren’t any for us. I think because we started out that way (working together) that we have just grown together.
GP: We have pretty much been inseparable for the past 13 years. We kind of have our own lives, but we are very much together — everything happens out of the same space.