A 'Gut Wrenching' Decision: The Vindicator Newspaper In Youngstown To Close
The Vindicator, the only daily newspaper in Mahoning County, announced on Friday that it would close at the end of August.
In a letter to readers published on its website late Friday evening, two members of the family that owns the newspaper - publisher Betty H. Brown Jagnow and general manager Mark A. Brown - said, "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."
They didn't find a buyer, and they announced that the newspaper would close in 60 days. The last edition of the newspaper, which has been in their family for four generations, will be published on Saturday, Aug. 31. The closure will mean that 144 employees and some 250 carriers will lose their jobs, according to WFMJ-TV which is also owned by the family. In a letter to WFMJ employees, Brown said, "We have no plans, no intentions, no desire, no thoughts and no interest in selling WFMJ. Period."
Most of the revenue of The Vindicator still came from the print newspaper, a similar situation for most newspapers. Newspaper circulation is in decline, and print advertising has seen precipitous drops in the past several years. The Vindicator was not able to make up the loss of revenue from digital advertising. Brown blamed Google and Facebook for driving down digital advertising rates, according to WFMJ.
The news came only days after The Vindicator celebrated its 150th anniversary. The newspaper was first published on June 25, 1869, and like many newspapers of the day, it was aligned with a political party. James H. Odell was a staunch Democrat who was run out of Beaver Creek, Pa., for his political activities, according to legend. When he arrived in Youngstown and launched his newspaper, he felt vindicated. The Vindicator was born.
In marking the 150th anniversary, Brown Jagnow, 88, said that she had worked at the newspaper for 71 years and added, "I cannot imagine not coming to work every week." She and her son said that the decision to shutter the newspaper was "gut wrenching".
Ohio Political Leadership Reacts
A week ago, Gov. Mike Dewine (R) congratulated the newspaper for its 150 years of publishing and said, "I congratulate The Vindicator on this milestone anniversary, and wish the entire organization continued success." Now, he has turned to Twitter to comment on the loss of the newspaper.
For more than 150 years, The Vindicator has been a dedicated voice for the citizens of the Mahoning Valley. The newspaper documented so many momentous events while keeping a watchful eye in dogged pursuit of public corruption. This is sad news for all of the Mahoning Valley.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) June 28, 2019
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) called the news "heartbreaking".
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.— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) June 28, 2019
Local newspapers are critical to our democracy. We need to support them.https://t.co/LuUR4HVhHF
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said the newspaper's closing was a great loss to the Mahoning Valley.
Journalists Mourn; Highlight Crisis in Local Journalism
Several staff members took to Twitter to announce the closure and also start their job search. The Vindicator's politics and government reporter David Skolnick said:
Thanks to everyone who reached out to me. We were informed today that The Vindicator is closing Aug. 31. A very sad time for all of us. If you’ve got potential job opportunities for me feel free to DM me. I’m open to a lot. And thanks to those who’ve read my work all these years.— David Skolnick (@dskolnick) June 29, 2019
Joe Gorman, a police reporter at the paper, said:
Growing up in Youngstown, the Vindicator is my dream job. I love the crime beat because I go all over the city meeting all kinds of people. As a single dad I'm anxious, yet hopeful. If anyone needs 20 years experience covering crime, hit me up. Maybe I'll start a crime podcast— joe gorman (@stormingorman67) June 29, 2019
Fellow journalists in the region also expressed sadness at the loss. Plain Dealer business reporter Jordyn Grzelewski worked at The Vindicator and wrote the story about the closure for the PD.
Media watchers and analysts worried what the closure meant for the battered industry. Joshua Benton, who runs the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, said: