MILLINOCKET — Plummeting national and local economies and a sharp downturn in advertising forced the Katahdin region’s oldest weekly newspaper to close this week, publisher Bob Pushard said Thursday.
The Katahdin Times’ final edition hit the stands Thursday and three full-time workers were laid off. Several independent contractors also lose work. But Pushard said he hopes the newspaper and its Web site might restart under a new owner in another month or so.
“We have had two or three people come forward and indicate some interest,” Pushard said Thursday.
A mainstay in the Katahdin region since the early 1970s, the Katahdin Times, which also was known as the Katahdin Press, circulated to East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket, plus some nearby Unorganized Territory, when the area had one of Maine’s highest per-capita income rates and as many as 5,000 workers employed at its two paper mills.
But a 10 percent to 15 percent loss of advertising revenue, plus a doubling in the average time it takes advertisers to pay their bills, forced the closure, said Pushard, who is sympathetic to his clients’ troubles.
He experienced something similar when declining sales forced the closure of Miller’s Department Store of Millinocket in March. He was part owner of the business and owns the building that is on Penobscot Avenue.
“The sad reality is that while some of the Katahdin Region’s businesses are healthy, many of the region’s businesses cannot currently pay their bills, whether it be utilities, advertising, insurance, taxes, or something else,” Pushard wrote in a front-page publisher’s note on the newspaper shutdown.
His decision to close also was motivated by the closure of several other Katahdin businesses, the temporary shutdown of the Millinocket mill, which idled as many as 207 workers, and the furlough of more than 100 workers from its East Millinocket mill.
East Millinocket resident Barbara Van Loon said she was sad to see the newspaper close. A newcomer to the Katahdin region, the Boston-area chef said she and her husband read all of the region’s newspapers to acclimate themselves as they prepared to move into town full time.
“It’s really sad to see this happen because this area has so many possibilities,” Van Loon said. “We do what we can to keep abreast of what’s going on.”
Pushard’s other publications, the Piscataquis Times and Sebasticook Weekly, are doing well, Pushard said.