Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Owners of the Youngstown Vindicator, the eighth-largest newspaper in Ohio by circulation, announced late last week
that it would halt publication on August 31. In light of “great financial hardships,” according to a letter from Publisher Betty Brown and General Manager Mark Brown, the paper had been seeking prospective buyers for the previous year to no avail.
“Our staff has worked tirelessly to make The Vindicator the most relevant and respected provider of local and regional news in our area. Our political, government, community, business, entertainment, and sports coverage is unmatched,” the letter read. “However, in recent years, we have been fighting against the tide of a changing newspaper business model and struggling to place The Vindicator on sound financial footing.”
With digital platforms like Facebook and Google siphoning away significant portions of print advertising revenue, newspapers are finding it harder and harder to remain solvent. While the Plain Dealer has outsourced its production staff and shrunk its newsgathering force in recent months, the Vindicator is the highest-profile Ohio paper to fully close due to market pressures.
The Brown family called the decision “gut-wrenching” in a report by local radio station WFMJ (also owned by the Brown family), which broke the news, not least because 144 employees and roughly 250 newspaper carriers will lose their jobs. This is an enormous blow to the Mahoning Valley, especially after the closure of the Lordstown GM plant earlier this year.
“We’re as vintage a brand as GM," the Vindy's editor in chief Todd Franko told the Plain Dealer.
The announcement arrived shortly after the paper celebrated its 150th birthday. The Vindicator began publishing in the summer of 1869, founded by James H. Odell.
Odell, a Pennsylvania native aligned with the Democratic party, named the paper for the “vindication” he found in the Mahoning Valley for his political convictions. The first issue of what was then a weekly publication argued for women’s rights and the “speedy triumph” of Democratic Party values.
Mahoning County these days has a population of roughly 230,000 and will soon be without a daily newspaper. In the immediate wake of the announcement, however, an area businessman and “serial entrepreneur” named Brandon Kovach announced that he’d be launching a digital news alternative.
“The importance of a fair and balanced news source is integral for the Mahoning Valley,” he wrote in a Facebook post
, using buzzwords that should give potential readers and advertisers pause. “It is my hope that we will be able to save as many jobs as possible. In order to do so, we need the community to pool together, to subscribe to our digital edition and to hang in there as we get our footing and grow. We need advertisers to support the new medium, and most importantly we are going to need great stories and value.”
Kovach, who calls himself the “Godfather of advertising” on his personal Facebook page, wrote that the goal of his new outlet is to have both free and paid content. He said current Youngstown Vindicator employees would be given priority for jobs and that advertising space was already limited.
An email to the Valley Vindicator’s Gmail account was not immediately returned, but Kovach’s incipient effort is likely to be only one of several as the community comes together to discuss filling what will be a critical news vacuum.
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