Colleagues and friends throughout the state are remembering Granite Publications founder Jim Chionsini, a leader in the Texas Newspaper industry for more than four decades.
Chionsini died July 21 at the age of 74.
No public services were held; however, memorial celebrations are planned.
Through tributes published in newspapers, some online and in other formats, journalists across Texas have shared Chionsini’s impact on their careers.
Growing up in LaMarque, Chionsini served in the U.S. Navy, graduating from basic training in 1964. Following Naval Aviation training in Memphis, he was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.
Chionsini began his newspaper career in 1970 working in ad sales at the Galveston Daily News.
In a 2010 interview archived in the Texas Newspaper Oral History project, he said he met Daily News Publisher Les Daughtry on the golf course in Galveston.
“I was hanging out there because I ran out of money going to college,” he said.
After spending the first eight years of his career working for newspapers owned by Carmage Walls in Galveston, Laredo, Presque Isle, Maine, Beaumont, Rosenberg and La Marque (his hometown newspaper), he purchased his first newspaper in Center, Texas, on May 2, 1978, an event commemorated in 2018 with a 40th anniversary celebration.
A year after purchasing the Center newspaper, he added a press. Seven more newspapers in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas were added by 1983, when the group was sold.
In 1985, Chionsini purchased Dixie Newspapers, a newspaper brokerage company, and set up headquarters in Lufkin. From 1986 through 1991, Dixie purchased seven newspapers and a printing plant, operations located in Texas and Tennessee, including the Highlander in Marble Falls and the Burnet Bulletin.
In 1992, two Hill Country newspapers were added. Dixie doubled in size in 1993 with the purchase of six newspapers, including the Taylor Daily Press and its printing plant. In 1995, two more newspapers were acquired and the company headquarters moved to Horseshoe Bay. Four more newspapers were acquired and a second printing operation was established by 1997 when Dixie Newspapers became Granite Publications.
More acquisitions and sales followed as Granite grew to 14 newspapers and the company headquarters moved to Taylor in 2001. By 2004, the company’s holdings included 17 newspapers and by 2008, 23 newspapers were in the group. In 2009, Granite Printing moved into new facilities located five miles north of Taylor in Circleville, where a new Goss Community SSC printing press was installed.
Today, Granite Publications is a family of eight community newspapers with commercial printing, design, advertising and marketing services as well as administrative headquarters in Taylor. Chionsini continued to be involved in Granite operations, working with Daniel Philhower, vice president and controller.
For decades Chionsini was also involved in serving small town communities through his newspapers and through his support for the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement.
“The weekly newspaper’s really the heart of the town, you know,” Chionsini said in the 2010 Texas Newspaper Oral History Project interview.
“I grew up in a little town, and I always felt like everybody knew what was going on in town, but they wanted to read the paper to validate it once a week.”
He added that his challenge to his newspapers was to get as many local people, places and names in the newspaper as possible.
“I think being an editor or publisher on a weekly newspaper is the most rewarding job you can have. And probably the most powerful in that town,” he said.
As he felt he had been mentored by others in the industry, including the Walls, Hartman, Smith and Boone families, Chionsini shared his expertise and helped younger newspaper entrepreneurs throughout the years, including the next generation of his own family.
In 2016, his son J.T. Maroney formed JTM Enterprises and acquired the Alpine Avalanche. In 2017, his daughter Brandi Chionsini, formerly CEO of Granite, formed a new management company, Fenice Community Media Group, with five newspapers.
In addition to the newspaper company, Chionsini and his wife Macy developed Granite Ranch near Roosevelt.
Since 2009, the Chionsinis have resided in San Angelo, where they developed another ranch.
They have hosted hunting and fishing trips on the ranches for groups of wounded veterans.