The coronavirus has closed more than 50 local newsrooms across America. And counting.

At first, the pandemic cost newsrooms jobs and communities critical work. Now it’s starting to end entire newsrooms.

July 10, 2020

This story was last updated on July 13

In many places, it started with a cut in print days. Furloughs. Layoffs. Just to get through the crisis, newsroom leaders told readers.

In some places, none of it was enough.

Now, small newsrooms around the country, often more than 100 years old, often the only news source in those places, are closing under the weight of the coronavirus. Some report they’re merging with nearby publications. But that “merger” means the end of news dedicated to those communities, the evaporation of institutional knowledge and the loss of local jobs.

At least 14 of the newsrooms now gone are owned by CNHI. Several are owned by Forum Communications Company. And a few are — were — owned by local families.

Since 2004, about 1,800 newspapers have closed in the United States, Penny Abernathy reported in her research on news deserts. 1,700 are weeklies. The pace of closures, up till now, has been about 100 a year, said Abernathy, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

“Between places switching to online only and those that are merging, this is a really sharp increase,” she said, “and not surprising either.”

The pace might be faster, but Abernathy’s research shows a trend that’s still playing out in the middle of a pandemic — the newsrooms that are closing are mostly weeklies in small communities.

“And when you lose a small daily or a weekly, you lose the journalist who was gonna show up at your school board meeting, your planning board meeting, your county commissioner meeting,” she said.

Communities lose transparency and accountability. Then, she said, research shows that taxes go up and voter participation goes down.

Some of the places listed here grew up alongside their communities. The Journal-Express in Knoxville, Iowa, was founded by a Civil War veteran who was friends with Abraham Lincoln, the site (which now redirects visitors to a “Knoxville” page on the website of the nearby Oskaloosa Herald) reported. After The Edmond Sun started publishing in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1889, the nearby paper that’s now the Oklahoman told readers “The Edmond Sun now shines on our table. It has come to drive the darkness from our neighboring city.” (That site has also disappeared, instead directing readers to The Norman Transcript website.)

Some are newer, like the Waterbury Record in Vermont, which launched in 2007.

“The Record has never been profitable, but we were in this for the long haul,” publisher Greg Popa told readers. “We started publishing the paper in 2007 to fill a news desert in a community we felt was on the upswing.”

Here, we’ve collected everything we’ve found about the local newsrooms we’ve lost because of the coronavirus. When possible, we’ve included clippings from that newsroom or about it. As many of the sites mentioned here are disappearing with no notice, we wanted to show they once did exist. We’re sure we missed some, please help us fix that. Also, if you can make it to the end, you’ll see there are a few bright spots, too.

RELATED: Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus

Closed by merger

All but one of these are CNHI newsrooms. In the process of reporting this story, many of the sites and merger announcements have turned into 404s or begun automatically redirecting users to the websites of nearby publications. We’re linking so you can see the URLs, which are digital evidence of the disappearances.

By the way, giving little notification about mergers isn’t an unusual tactic, Abernathy said, “for companies owned as investments and not as civic institutions.”

Poynter reached out to CNHI for comment. We haven’t yet heard back.

The Jasper News

City: Jasper, Florida
Founded: 1870
Closed: Merged with the Valdosta Daily Times in Valdosta, Georgia, about 35 miles northwest, in July of 2020.
Owner:  CNHI

The Suwannee Democrat

City: Live Oak, Florida
Founded: 1884
Closed: Merged with the Valdosta Daily Times in Valdosta, Georgia, about 45 miles northwest, in July of 2020.
Owner:  CNHI

The Mayo Free Press

City: Mayo, Florida
Founded: 1888
Closed: Merged with the Valdosta Daily Times in Valdosta, Georgia, about 60 miles north, in July of 2020.
Owner:  CNHI

Keota Eagle

City: Keota, Iowa
Founded: 1875
Closed: Merged with The News-Review in Sigourney, Iowa, about 20 minutes west, on June 17.
Owner:  Mid-America Publishing.

“The Keota Eagle was established in 1875 by George C. Miller and has been serving the community of Keota, Iowa ever since. “

Mineral Wells Index

City: Mineral Wells, Indiana
Founded: 1900
Closed: Merged with the Weatherford Democrat, about 30 minutes east, announced May 23.
Owner:  CNHI

The Pella Chronicle

City: Pella, Iowa
Founded: 1866
Closed: Merged with The Oskaloosa Herald, about 20 minutes southeast, announced May 14.
Owner: CNHI
The site has disappeared, but before it did, under history, it read: “Only one other business has operated in Pella under the same name longer than the Pella Chronicle.”

The Journal Express

City: Knoxville, Iowa
Founded: 1855
Closed: Merged with The Oskaloosa Herald, about 30 minutes east, announced May 14, 2020.
Owner: CNHI
The site has now disappeared. Before it did, it read: “The Journal was founded by William Milo Stone, a Civil War hero and friend of Abraham Lincoln, who went on to serve as governor of Iowa.”

Daily Iowegian

City: Centerville, Iowa
Founded: 1864
Closed: Merged with Ottumwa Courier, less than an hour northeast, announced May 13, 2020
Owner: CNHI
“During its history, the Daily Iowegian has survived the rise and fall of the coal industry, depressions, wars, vast agricultural developments, years of industrial changes and shifting community fortunes.”

Centerville Iowegian and Citizen, Feb. 26, 1960. (newspapers.com)

The North Jefferson News

City: Gardendale, Alabama
Founded: 1970
Closed: Merged with the Cullman Times, 40 minutes north, on April 22, 2020
Owner: CNHI
The site has disappeared along with the letter from the editor explaining the move.

The Edmond Sun

City: Edmond, Oklahoma
Founded: 1889
Closed: Merged with The Norman Transcript, 45 minutes north, on May 6, 2020
Owner: CNHI
The site has now disappeared. Before it did, it read: “On a hot July 18, 1889, The Edmond Sun premiered as a small four-page weekly in what was then a train refueling town.”

The Edmond (Oklahoma) Sun on July 18,1889. (Newspapers.com)

The Zionsville Times-Sentinel

City: Zionsville, Indiana
Founded: 1860
Closed: Merged with The Lebanon Reporter, 20 minutes northwest, May 12, 2020.
Owner: CNHI
The site disappeared before we could pull any history from it.

The Morehead News

City: Morehead, Kentucky
Founded: 1883
Closed: Merged with The Daily Independent in Ashland, more than an hour west, on April 29, 2020.
Owner: CNHI

From the (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal, Aug. 24, 1973. (newspapers.com)

The Grayson Journal-Times

City: Grayson, Kentucky
Founded: 1946
Closed: Merged with The Daily Independent in Ashland, about 30 minutes east, on April 29, 2020
Owner: CNHI

Olive Hill Times

City: Grayson, Kentucky
Founded: Unknown
Closed: Merged with The Daily Independent in Ashland, about 30 minutes east, on April 29, 2020
Owner: CNHI

Greenup County News-Times

City: Greenup, Kentucky
Founded: 1870
Closed: Merged with The Daily Independent in Ashland, about 20 minutes southeast, on April 29, 2020
Owner: CNHI

The Rushville Republican

City: Rushville, Indiana
Founded: 1854
Closed: Merged with the Greensburg Daily News in Greensburg, about 20 minutes south, in May 2020.
Owner: CNHI

The Batesville Herald Tribune

City: Batesville, Indiana
Founded: Around 1870
Closed: Merged with the Greensburg Daily News in Greensburg, about 20 minutes west, in May 2020.
Owner: CNHI

The Eureka Sentinel

City: Eureka, Nevada
Founded: 1870
Closed: Merged with The Ely Times, more than an hour east, in March of 2020
Owner: Battle Born Media

From the Pioche (Nevada) Record, June 18, 1874. (newspapers.com)

RELATED: It’s time to uproot American newspapers from hedge funds and replant them in more hospitable ground

Other closures

Mount Vernon Democrat

City: Mount Vernon, Indiana
Founded: 1867
Closed: June 24, 2020
Owner: Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc.

“The Mount Vernon Democrat, since its creation in 1867, has been a place of employment in Posey County to many, many people. The newspaper was awarded the Hoosier State Press Association’s Blue Ribbon in 2005 and 2006, and was a runner-up in the 2008 contest.”

Press & Journal

City: Middletown, Pennsylvania
Founded: 1854
Closed: July 1, 2020
Owner: Joe and Louise Sukle

The final edition included this: This newspaper at its core is a family business. Five generations of grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of the Fox, Graybill and Sukle families have worked here. We laughed together, argued together, celebrated together and cried together. Through good times and bad, we preserved our paper’s long tradition of providing independent journalism to this community. We leave behind a reputation for fearlessly speaking truth to power and a proud legacy of watchdog reporting that served all its citizens. We had high hopes our daughter, Julianna, would usher the family business into the future. That can no longer be. It will be our deepest regret.

Screen shot

22nd Century Media newsrooms

City: Chicago suburbs
Founded: 2005
Closed: April 1, 2020
Owner: 22nd Century Media

22nd Century Media published the following 14 community newspapers in the Chicago suburbs: The Lake Forest Leader, The Glencoe Anchor, The Highland Park Landmark, The Northbrook Tower, The Wilmette Beacon, The Winnetka Current, The Glenview Lantern, The Homer Horizon, The Lockport Legend, The Mokena Messenger, The New Lenox Patriot, The Orland Park Prairie, The Tinley Junction, and The Frankfort Station.

The Independent-Enterprise

City: Payette, Idaho
Founded: Early 1890s
Closed: June 24, 2020
Owner: Wick Communications

The Sun

City: New Sharon, Iowa
Founded: Unknown
Closed: June 18, 2020
Owner:  Mid-America Publishing

Hendricks County Flyer

City: Hendricks County, Indiana
Founded: 1965
Closed: May 13, 2020
Owner:  CNHI

The Merkel Mail

City: Merkel, Texas
Founded: 1890
Closed: May, 2020
Owner:  John Starbuck

“It’s important to note that a newspaper like the Merkel Mail doesn’t have a huge newsroom. If you met John, you met the news staff.”

The Havre Herald

City: Havre, Montana
Founded: 2018
Closed: May 22, 2020
Owner: Paul Dragu and Teresa Webber Dragu

“Idealism, a sense of purpose, lots of volunteer hours, opportune side gigs, and the backing of our wonderful supporters and advertisers got us this far. But then a pandemic hit, the world changed, and an upstart news organization’s uphill battle to sustainability became immensely steeper.”

The Belle Banner

City: Belle, Missouri
Founded: 1923
Closed: May 6, 2020
Owner: Tri-County Newspapers

The Bland Courier

City: Bland, Missouri
Founded: 1921
Closed: May 6, 2020
Owner: Tri-County Newspapers

From The Bland Courier, March 15, 1945. (newspapers.com)

Maries County Gazette

City: Vienna, Missouri
Founded: Unknown
Closed: May 6, 2020
Owner: Tri-County Newspapers

The Hastings Star Gazette

City: Hastings, Minnesota
Founded: 1866
Closed: May 7, 2020
Owner: Forum Communications Company

The Bulletin

City: Woodbury and Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Founded: 1960s, we think
Closed: May 6, 2020
Owner: Forum Communications Company

Lake County News Chronicle

City: Two Harbors, Minnesota
Founded: At least 1822
Closed: May 22, 2020
Owner: Forum Communications Company

Composite, from the Minneapolis Star, July 13, 1927. (Newspapers.com)

Eden Prairie News

City: Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Founded: 1974
Closed: April 30, 2020
Owner: Southwest News Media
“The Eden Prairie News was founded by a group of Eden Prairie residents in 1974. They recognized that Eden Prairie would soon be a fast-growing suburb, and felt the community should have its own newspaper. They sold stock to get it off the ground.”

Lakeshore Weekly News

City: Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
Founded: 1995
Closed: April 30, 2020
Owner: Southwest News Media

Waterbury Record

City: Waterbury, Vermont
Founded: 2007
Closed: March 26, 2020
Owner: Vermont Community Newspaper Group
“The Record has never been profitable, but we were in this for the long haul. We started publishing the paper in 2007 to fill a news desert in a community we felt was on the upswing.”

Mesquite Local News

City: Mesquite, Nevada
Founded: 2006
Closed: 2020
Owner: Battle Born Media

The Pittsburgh Catholic

City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Founded: 1844
Closed: March, 2020
Owner: Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
“The capital to start the newspaper came from 78 founding subscribers who paid $5 each for a prepaid three-year subscription. After a subscription drive, some 600 people had paid $2 to take the paper for a year, even before the first issue was printed.”

The Bolivar Commercial

City: Cleveland, Mississippi
Founded: 1916
Closed: April 2020
Owner: Walls Newspapers
“My grandfather used to say that a community gets the newspaper it is willing, or able, to pay for,” said owner Lee Walls. “I’m sure there are people and businesses in Bolivar County and Cleveland who are willing to pay for a local newspaper, through subscriptions and advertising, but history has taught me there are not enough.”

San Diego Home and Garden

City: San Diego, California
Founded: 1979
Closed: March 2020
Owner: McKinnon Broadcasting

The Gunnison Valley Gazette

City: Gunnison, Utah
Founded: 2005
Closed: April 2020
Owner: Mark and Jodi Henline, sold to the Sanpete Messenger. No word yet on what’s next.

RELATED: This year’s Pulitzers are a reminder why local news matters all the time, not just in a crisis

The places that closed for now

Several newsrooms or newsroom owners announced they were closing temporarily to get through the coronavirus. They include:

  • San Diego City Beat has paused publication.
  • Isthmus, an alt-weekly in Madison, Wisconsin, told readers: “Over the past few weeks we have been trying to cover the turmoil and grief that COVID-19 has caused our Madison community. Today, we unfortunately need to share our own story. We have decided that if there is any chance of seeing life on the other side of this storm, Isthmus must go dark for an undetermined amount of time.”

Those that almost closed

While reporting this story, eight publications reported as closed were brought back to life. Here’s hoping this list gets longer.

The De Smet News

City: De Smet, South Dakota
Founded: 1939
Closed: April 11, 2020
Reopened: May 20, 2020 as the Kingsbury Journal, a volunteer publication serving the De Smet News and Lake Preston Times communities. 
Owner: From Dale Blegen to The De Smet Development Corporation.

Lake Preston Times

City: Lake Preston, South Dakota
Founded: 1881
Closed: April 11, 2020
Reopened: May 20, 2020 as the Kingsbury Journal, a volunteer publication serving the De Smet News and Lake Preston Times communities. 
Owner:
From Dale Blegen to The Lake Preston Development Corporation.

Nuvo

City: Indianapolis, Indiana
Founded: 1990
Closed: April 2020
Re-opened: May 2020
Owner
: Nuvo Cultural Foundation
“The provider that hosts our website has designed a substantially lower cost package, which makes it possible for nuvo.net to continue.”

The Daily Clintonian

City: Clinton, Indiana
Founded: Before 1936
Closed: April, 2020
Re-opened: Mid-May
Owner: From the Carey family to Hoosier Media Group
“Our companies believe strongly in local names and local faces journalism. We plan to provide Vermillion County with a hometown newspaper they will proudly call their own.”

The Stanton Register

City: Stanton, Nebraska
Founded: 1879
Closed: May, 2020
Reopened: May, 2020
Owner: From Dani and Brian Hadcock to Pitzer Digital LLC
“The newspaper was set to close May 6 due to an economic downturn during the novel COVID-19 era. Not wanting to see Stanton County lose its only newspaper, the Pitzers asked how they could help the community save its newspaper.”

Burbank Leader

City: Burbank, California
Founded: 1985
Closed: April 2020
Reopened: May 2020
Owner: California Times to Outlook Newspapers

Glendale News-Press

City: Glendale, California
Founded: 1905
Closed: April 2020
Reopened: May 2020
Owner: California Times to Outlook Newspapers

La Cañada Valley Sun

City: La Cañada, California
Founded: 1946
Closed: April 2020
Reopened: Merged with La Cañada Outlook
Owner: California Times to Outlook Newspapers
“We are thrilled to have acquired three iconic newspapers with deep roots and historic legacies in their respective communities.”

While the titles live on, the Los Angeles Times reported that the 14 people who lost their jobs with those last three closures were not getting their jobs back.

Correction: Olive Hill, Morehead and Grayson, Kentucky are east of Ashland, not west. It’s been corrected. We apologize for the error.

Kristen Hare covers the business and people of local news for Poynter.org, is the editor of Locally and writes a weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news. You can subscribe here. Kristen can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.

Comments

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  • The coronavirus did not close these newspapers, it accelerated a trend of media companies unable to compete for advertising with the social media platforms. Facebook and Google win around 90% of new ad deals.

  • According to ChroniclingAmerica from the Library of Congress, the Maries County Gazette was founded in 1873 as the Banner of Liberty, then called the Courier, then called the Gazette.
    The Greenup County News-Times is more difficult to figure out, but based on apparently two volumes per year and going back in an “old series” numbering, it looks like the Greenup News was founded about 1920. (It’s unclear where “Times” came from. There was a Russell, Kentucky, Times that folded in 1970, but a connection can’t be made. They were only in the same county.)