Newspaper Business

Los Angeles area community papers to shutter

Three stepsisters – the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun – died this week of complications from COVID-19. The News-Press was 115, the Leader (nee Review) was 112 while the Valley Sun was 74.

Though the News-Press and Leader will have its final edition on April 18, followed by the Valley Sun on April 23, an announcement of the then-impending death was made by the trios’ parent, California Times, on the evening of April 16. However, news of the shuttering was broken several hours earlier by reporter Andy Nguyen, who announced his own layoff – and that of the rest of the staffs – on Twitter.

“This was a difficult business decision in a trying time for community newspapers compounded by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” the company said in its statement. “The three titles, while journalistically sound, are operating at significant losses.”

Though company officials stated that the areas previously served by the papers would be now undertaken by the metro staff of The Los Angeles Times, it is unlikely the same level of coverage – even in its weakened form in recent years – will occur. With one decision, an area of approximately a third-of-a-million people now live in a local news dessert.

The News-Press started life in 1905, a year prior to the incorporation of the city itself. According to the U.S. Census, approximately 2,700 people lived there in 1910, a figure that grew to more than 200,000 presently. The Leader started as the Daily Burbank Review in 1908 – three years before the 1911 incorporation of the town – which became the twice-weekly Leader in 1985.

The Valley Sun launched in 1946, more than 30 years before its city’s incorporation.

The News-Press and Leader, one-time rivals, were put together under the Times Community News banner in 1993 when they were purchased by the Times’ parent company. The weekly Valley Sun joined the group in 2005.

Though the death was sudden, it was not unexpected. The News-Press and Leader cut publication to a single day earlier this year, citing revenue drops. As recently as 2016, the News-Press had been publishing five days per week, while the Leader continued the semiweekly schedule it had used for decades.

But in the intervening years, as revenue dropped, decisions were made to reduce publication days and reduce staff, primarily via attrition. A staff of 30 in 2015 had dropped to the 14 individuals who were laid off due to the closures.

The three are survived by two TCN publications in Orange County – The Daily Pilot and TimesOC – as well as the hundreds of reporters, editors, photographers, copyeditors, sportswriters, ad reps, front office staff and executives that worked for them over the years. In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to buy an online subscription to a newspaper.

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