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In Youngstown, Ohio, the local paper celebrated its 150th year in business. Now it’s closing

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jun 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-30 16:30:37-04

The imminent loss of the daily newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio is a “big body blow,” Rep. Tim Ryan, the area’s congressman, said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday.

“So much is pulling us apart,” he said, “and those local papers pulled us together.”

The Vindicator will shut down at the end of August, according to an announcement from publisher Betty H. Brown Jagnow and general manager Mark A. Brown.

When the news broke on Friday, it was seen as another unfortunate milestone on the road away from local print newspapers.

“The biggest question in local news has been when newspapers will stop shrinking and start closing. Well, the daily in Youngstown, Ohio is closing. Not a good sign,” Nieman Journalism Lab director Joshua Benton tweeted.

“This isn’t a two-paper town becoming a one-paper town. This isn’t cutting print days. Just… no newspaper in a city of 67,000 anchoring a metro area of 565,000,” Benton pointed out.

The closure news hit just a few days after the paper celebrated its 150th anniversary. “Due to great financial hardships, we spent the last year searching for a buyer to continue to operate The Vindicator and preserve as many jobs as possible while maintaining the paper’s voice in the community. That search has been unsuccessful,” Jagnow and Brown told readers in a letter in Saturday’s edition.

They said “we have been fighting against the tide of a changing newspaper business model and struggling to place The Vindicator on sound financial footing.” But cuts in expenses, newspaper price hikes and new advertising efforts were not enough, and “The Vindicator continues to operate at a loss,” they said.

Other reporters in the region agreed with their assertion that the end of the paper is gut-wrenching.

“This is an incalculable loss for the Youngstown community and local journalism,” Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Jordyn Grzelewski tweeted after writing her own story about the news.

Ryan, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said The Vindicator highlights local success stories and holds government official accountable.

“It builds culture,” he said. “And that’s what you lose when you lose the local newspaper. You lose that culture that pulls you together.”

Ryan linked the paper’s struggles to the wider community’s economic difficulties.

“We have seen, for the last 30 or 40 years, an economic decline — loss of the steel mills, loss of the auto plants. I mean, you’re talking about tens of thousands of workers. We just had a General Motors plant which used to have 16,000 workers. Now, it’s now idle.” The result: Fewer subscribers and advertisers for a local paper.

Ryan said political figures can help local news by not putting “the press as enemy of the state,” a clear shot at President Trump.

Ryan said that during his tenure as a congressman, The Vindicator has “obviously at times wrote articles that I wasn’t exactly pleased with. But the reality of it is, what’s the alternative? I mean, you have a state-run paper like in China or like in Russia? You know, that’s not good at the end of the day.”