Sunday, July 12, 2009

Small New Hampshire chain closes – 120 fired

When Harvey Hill shut down his community newspaper chain headquartered in Claremont, New Hampshire on Friday, July 10, the shock waves traveled at least 40 miles south where Howard Weiss-Tisman of the Brattleboro Reformer reported widespread concerns:

“The closing of the Eagle Times is affecting approximately 120 employees, the towns that did business with the paper and fans of journalism who are worried about the future of newspapers in America,” he said in leading his report.
The firings also set off alarms at the state Capital. Weiss-Tisman also reported that the state “sent a Department of Labor rapid response team to the Eagle Publications office in Claremont to help the workers there who lost their jobs when the company abruptly announced it would be closing Thursday.”

This chain was local and independent, thus may have been publishing the kinds of community connected newspapers that are supposed to survive in this Internet dominated environment. From a distance, this blogger can’t know what really happened.

But Weiss-Tisman and a writer for the Concord Monitor noted that the reporters who worked for the paper were devastated. And community minded residents were disappointed.

The Brattleboro report added:
“ ‘They were trying hard to make the change to have more news on the Internet, but I guess it was not enough to keep it from closing,’ said (Jim) Mullen, municipal manager for the town of Bellows Falls which was served by the chain. ‘People depend on their local newspaper to get information on town government and the question is, if newspapers go away, how will people find about their government.’

“ ‘It's always sad when a newspaper shuts down its presses,’ said Marianne Salcetti, a journalism professor at Keene State College. "The death of any newspaper leaves a gaping hole. Newspapers are the soul of any community.’

“Hill purchased the company in 1995 and the paper was one the few remaining independent newspapers in the region.”

The report quoted one employee of the papers who said Hill had been pumping his own money into the business and employees knew it was in trouble.

But they had not anticipated the news that arrived at their work stations by email on Friday, announcing their immediate termination.

More than 50 years ago this blogger’s father struggled to keep his newspaper relevant to the town of Ontario, Oregon, and for the near term he clearly succeeded. Every day he made a decision as to how much money to plow back into the effort and how much to spend on his family.

We never suffered when he decided for the paper, which according to the column, posted below and written in October 1953, was the way the decision often went.

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