New Buckeye Review Owners Carry On Voice of the Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Becoming the new owners of the Buckeye Review marks a full-circle moment for sisters Zakkiyyah Terrell White and Dontaira Terrell.

“My first byline was in the Buckeye Review, and it was an article where I interviewed some fourth graders – I was in fourth grade,” Terrell said. “And we discussed our summer plans.”

She went on to write for several publications, interviewing celebrities and other notable figures. Terrell is the newspaper’s co-publisher, editor-in-chief and chief content officer.

While in high school, White worked as an intern at the Buckeye Review, learning about page layout, advertising, deadlines and article placement.

“I learned so much that I didn’t realize until it came full circle and it was time for me to do it again,” said White, who is co-publisher and chief operating officer.

The women, who are city natives, in January bought the Buckeye Review, founded in 1937 by J. Maynard Dickerson, from Mike and Linda McNair. They declined to disclose the purchase price.

Both sisters have a passion for writing. Terrell is a journalist, and White is an attorney.

When the opportunity arose to buy the business, they seized it. White handles the operational side of the business, and Terrell reports the stories.

“There’s so much power in storytelling,” Terrell said.

The legacy of the publication, known as the voice of the Valley, is part of what attracted the sisters to it.

“These types of opportunities don’t just come around,” White said, adding that the number of newspapers is shrinking. 

They want to get younger generations “engaged in the love of reading again, getting a newspaper.”

White remembers as a child hearing the newspaper land on the porch. 

“Our parents or our grandparents would send us out [to get it], and you just don’t see that,” White said. “There’s even people in my age group who don’t really appreciate newspapers.”

To appeal to younger audiences while maintaining longtime readers, the new owners offer both print and online platforms, with videos on the website. They combine local content with national, political and entertainment news.

The June publication, for example, includes an interview with Opal Lee, known as the mother of Juneteenth, who was interviewed by Aza White, a junior reporter and White’s daughter.

It also features a piece about a Youngstown man who played baseball in the Negro Leagues.

“We were able to get over 100 new subscribers since taking ownership,” White said.

Circulation reaches 212 cities in 28 states. The newspaper’s roots and its legacy of being a voice for the minority community play an important role, too, she said.

Although White lives in Florida and Terrell lives in California, both women return about monthly to work on the paper. They have many family members, including their father, who still live in the Mahoning Valley. They still consider it home.

“But what I think is also important to note is that the Valley is all over the place, and a lot of the subscribers in those 20 states are from Youngstown too,” White said. 

Those readers care about what’s going on in their hometown, but they want other people to know what’s happening where they live as well, she said.

“There’s a lot of people from Youngstown who have built other places and have large villages of people from Youngstown there too,” White said.

Terrell challenges the notion that newspapers are dying.

“There are still newspaper readers, avid newspaper readers,” she said. “Also, for people who are not avid newspaper readers, this is our opportunity to get people excited to pick up a physical copy of a newspaper again.”

Both sisters attended the former St. Patrick School. Terrell enrolled at Kirkmere Elementary when St. Patrick closed. She graduated from Ursuline High School, while White attended Cardinal Mooney and Chaney High School and then enrolled at Howard University, earning her undergraduate degree. White earned her law degree and her MBA from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Terrell earned her bachelor’s at Florida A&M University and her master’s degree at New York University.

They credit their parents for fostering their love of learning. Their home included a small library, and they were encouraged to read. If one of the daughters – White and Terrell are two of four Terrell sisters – didn’t know how to spell a word or its definition, their parents directed them to look it up in the dictionary and share what they learned with their siblings.

It worked.

“I loved going to the library,” Terrell said. It was my escape.” 

She recalls telling a suitor that if he wanted to date her, he should meet her at the library. He did.

Both women respect the written word and “there just aren’t that many papers anymore,” she said. “That was important to us too, to get even the younger generations engaged in the love of reading again, getting a newspaper.”

Adding more digital elements and revamping the website are ways the new owners are appealing to a younger audience. 

They also plan to start a newsletter and a quarterly magazine, more of a media company than a single publication.

Terrell said her vision is to maximize the Buckeye Review’s digital footprint while also giving back to the community.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have an amazing career and a lot of great people who were able to open the doors for me and educate me,” Terrell said. “And so I want to actually do that for the next generation.”

Pictured at top: Zakkiyyah Terrell White and Dontaira Terrell.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.