Youngstown’s Only Daily Newspaper Closing Its Doors After 150 Years

 

The Vindicator, the only daily newspaper for the community of Youngstown, announced Saturday that it will be closing its doors by the end of August after 150 years of publication.

The news was first reported Friday night by 21-WFMJ-TV, and was confirmed Saturday in a letter from The Vindicator to its readers. The paper just celebrated its 150th anniversary on June 25.

“Regrettably, after four generations of Maag-Brown family ownership, The Vindicator will not have much of a birthday celebration,” Publisher Betty Brown and General Manager Mark Brown (mother and son) said in Saturday’s letter.

According to the letter, The Vindicator’s ownership has spent the past year searching for a buyer who could continue to operate the paper, but the search was unsuccessful.

“As a result, with a deep sense of sadness and tremendous dismay, we notified our employees yesterday that The Vindicator would cease publication in 60 days. We anticipate the last day you will see us will be Saturday, Aug. 31,” the letter said.

The paper has been operated by the Brown and Maag families since 1887, when William F. Maag, Sr. bought the publication after a fire.

“April 1 marked my mother’s 71st year of working here while I will only have 38 years as of this June. As the saying goes, we have ink in our veins,” Mark Brown said in Saturday’s letter.

The Browns said they have done everything they could to “place The Vindicator on sound financial footing,” but the publication “continues to operate at a loss.”

“We have attacked expenses with the cooperation of our employees and unions. We invested in new presses to become more competitive. We did everything we could to increase revenue, including raising the price of the newspaper, and to drive advertising revenue into the paper and website,” said the Browns.

They concluded their letter by thanking their “loyal readers and advertisers” for their support.

“With your backing, we were able to fight battles over the years against corruption and for open government to help make our Valley a better place to call home,” they wrote. “It is with broken hearts that we say goodbye and a final thank you.”

Todd Franko, editor-in-chief of The Vindicator, spoke with The Cleveland Plain Dealer about the closure.

“It’s stunning news for us, internally, and it’s going to be stunning for the community over the next days and weeks, especially a community that’s endured as much as the Valley has, most recently with the Lordstown closure,” said Franko. “We’re as vintage a brand as GM, and it’s tough for all of us. Obviously my first concerns are for my coworkers and the people who have spent decades here, but I’m also sad for the Valley and what they’re going to lose. It’s a loss for thousands.”

According to 21-WFMJ-TV, the closure will leave 144 employees and roughly 250 carriers out of work by the end of August. The Brown family also owns and operates 21-WFMJ-TV, which it has no intention of selling.

“We have no plans, no intentions, no desire, no thoughts, and no interest in selling WFMJ. Period,” Mark Brown said.

As The Plain Dealer points out, nearly one in every five local newspapers has closed down in the last fifteen years. That’s according to data from the University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Stability in Local Media, which has observed a net loss of nearly 1,800 local papers since 2004.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), who represents the Youngstown area, responded to The Vindicator’s closure on Twitter Friday.

“This is heartbreaking. The Vindicator has been a pillar in our community, and its reporters and staff have always been unwavering in their commitment to truth and transparency,” he said. “Local newspapers are critical to our democracy. We need to support them.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to anthony.gockowski@gmail.com.
Photo “The Vindicator” by the Vindicator. 

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