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K-State Today

April 9, 2015



Five generations of A.Q. Miller family media

By Angela Powers

Angela Powers, professor in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, recently published findings about the sustainability of family-owned media organizations in the Journal of Media Business Studies.

Family-owned media organizations, including Kansas newspapers, are finding sustainability in smaller communities, according to Powers.

Powers researches media ecology and says family companies often have a competitive advantage because of their commitment, knowledge continuity, reliability and pride. Despite such advantages, most family firms dissolve after the third generation. That has not been the case, however, with the A.Q. Miller family of media businesses.

Five generations of Miller family members have been educated in the journalism and mass communications program at K-State and have gone on to run their own media companies.

"To find a family media company that is in its fifth generation dating back to the 1800s and A.Q. Miller is truly unique," Powers says.

Through qualitative interviewing, Powers and her students have been identifying successes and challenges of business operations. Powers says it has been a rewarding experience, and the Miller family has been inviting them to present their initial findings at a family reunion in May.

According to Powers, since small-town media are facing increased competition and technological changes, there is a need to analyze strategy-making from an ecological perspective looking at family companies, including the Millers' entities. Her research indicates family-owned media often find stability in retaining core businesses such as print and radio while slowly migrating online. Rapid-fire innovations have the potential to weaken financial footholds, she says, causing media to lay off personnel or shut down innovation altogether. Her research provides a rationale for a conservative, "tried-and-true" approach for smaller operations.

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