Add your local weekly newspaper to the economic victims of the virus pandemic.
The Press newspapers based in Brentwood has announced the “suspension” of the print publication of their four editions that also included papers in Oakley, Antioch and Discovery Bay. The east Contra Costa company had been distributing the paper to about 30,000 subscribers a week.
Publisher Greg Robinson included a letter to his readers in last week’s editions noting that the ongoing closures of local businesses that provide the bulk of the paper’s income had forced him to halt printing and issue a cut in his sales and support workforce.
Robinson told his readers that he planned to resume print publication when the state’s “stay-in-place” order is lifted. He also assured subscribers that the company will continue reporting the local news via its “robust” online website, thePress.net.
The publisher said Friday that the printing halt had led him to layoff six of his staff, but he remained “very optimistic” about the paper’s future. Robinson said the paper’s website has seen a doubling in online traffic during the virus crisis. “Weekly newspapers that didn’t focus on their digital side are going to be hit hard,” Robinson said.
Robinson bought the publication company in 2014 from previous owner Jimmy Chamoures.
East Contra Costa is also served by the weekly Delta Sun Times and the monthly Antioch Herald.
Amanda Dove, publisher of the Sun Times, admitted that her Discovery Bay paper is “struggling” and also evaluating its future as a printed publication. “Do we keep going or not,” is a tough decision for a “joy of your community” type of media endeavor, she said Friday. Although a lot of local businesses have closed their doors, she noted that her real estate advertisers are still reporting brisk sales. Dove has owned the paper for 21 years.
Allen Payton, the publisher of the Antioch Herald, which distributes 24,000 papers via direct mail, also said Friday that his publication is finding it tough to survive in the economic downturn.
Payton also noted the demise of weekly newspapers throughout the area. The Martinez News-Gazette had recently announced its plans to shut down but managed to publish an edition March 19 through an alliance with PCM Publishing in Southern California to handle printing and distribution. Editor Rick Jones told the East Bay Times that he hopes to keep the paper’s website operating as long as he can.
Newspapers have been hammered by the loss of advertising to online competitors leading to the loss of one in five papers across the nation since 2004.
A recent report by PEN America was titled “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions.” According to the report, at least 200 counties in the U.S. have no newspaper at all.
Charles Sennott, a veteran journalist and now CEO of The GroundTruth Project, told PBS recently “We are seeing communities where their news organizations have just closed up and gone away. There are 2,000 newspapers that have completely shut down, 2,000 communities without a newspaper anymore; 1,300 no longer have any local news coverage at all, no one watching the store, from small towns to medium-sized cities.”