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Longtime Newspaper To Shut Down In Youngstown, Ohio


The Vindicator newspaper of Youngstown, Ohio, recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, and it looks like it might be the last. The paper's owners say they will shut it down next month. That would make Youngstown the largest city in the nation without a major newspaper. Here's NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The Vindicator's owners, the locally based Maag-Brown family, say they've lost money in 20 of the past 22 years.

MARK BROWN: We knew we were going to have to do something about five years ago, but we decided to ride it out at that point because we looked at a sale then and realized that whoever bought it would probably eliminate over half the staff immediately.

FOLKENFLIK: Mark Brown is general manager of The Vindy, as it's known locally. His mother, Betty Maag is publisher, and she's worked there more than seven decades. The Vindicator carried a large newsroom given its size, 40-plus journalists for a paper with a daily circulation of roughly 25,000.

BROWN: We got to the point where we were running out of money. We went up for sale, and we frankly never expected we wouldn't find a buyer.

FOLKENFLIK: But none came forward, and the paper says its last issue will be August 31.

On the national level, the outlook is promising. The New York Times has added millions of new digital subscribers. The Washington Post is going on a hiring spree for investigative reporters. But at the local level, it's cut, cut, cut. What's new about Youngstown is that the daily paper won't just be diminished. It's not going to publish at all.

BARB EWING: I'm thinking about all of the different ways in which a newspaper really serves its community.

FOLKENFLIK: This is Barb Ewing. She's CEO of the Business Incubator in town.

EWING: From providing information on obituaries so people know who they've lost, simple things like wedding announcements and really community kinds of things - we don't think of those as truly impactful, but they matter to people.

FOLKENFLIK: TV stations and nearby smaller papers say they'll fill some gaps, but Ewing says The Vindy's reporters spent unusual time to develop sources and expertise.

Youngstown has a population of 65,000, a rich history of corruption covered energetically by The Vindy. Take its reporting on the late congressman, Jim Traficant, heard here testifying before the U.S. House Ethics Committee over his bribery convictions. He's highly aware of the presence of his hometown paper.


JIM TRAFICANT: Mr. De Souza is from The Vindicator, and if you want to be defamed, there's nobody in America that can defame you like De Souza.

FOLKENFLIK: Traficant was tossed out of Congress and served seven years in prison. Three years ago, the mayor and the former auditor pleaded guilty in a corruption scandal, and then this last year.


MANDY NOELL: The former mayor and finance director of Youngstown both facing over 100 criminal charges, including bribery and theft.

FOLKENFLIK: Amazingly, these are different mayors - one in jail, the other awaiting trial next year. Dave Green is the president of United Auto Workers Local 1112. He puts the loss of The Vindy in a greater context.

DAVE GREEN: I was born in Northside Hospital, which is now closed - had the Youngstown Vindicator delivered every day to the house, which isn't going to be there. And now my - you know, obviously my employer is pushing all of the workers from this community to other communities.

FOLKENFLIK: Green says The Vindicator has done a strong job in covering that employer, GM, which just eliminated most jobs at its plant up the road at Lordstown. Car parts factories are largely idle as well.

On Tuesday night, roughly 200 people participated in a public discussion about the future of news in the region.


TRACEY WINBUSH: I think this is a good opportunity for us as a valley to start planning how we want to see the valley to look.

FOLKENFLIK: Tracey Winbush is a conservative talk radio host there.


WINBUSH: When our communication source breaks down, and we no longer have The Vindicator, that's a sign.

FOLKENFLIK: Mark Brown says the paper's fate should be a sign for the nation, too, of journalism in peril. David Folkenflik, NPR News.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Here in Youngstown, here in Youngstown... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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