BANGOR, Maine — Hometown Newspapers LLC has ceased publication of three weekly newspapers in an effort to focus attention on online content, according to publisher Robert Pushard.
The Highlands Journal-Moosehead Times in the Greenville area, the Citizen Journal in the Bangor area, and the SV Weekly-Somerset Times in the Newport area published their final issues last week, said Pushard. All three were free weekly newspapers.
Hometown Newspapers took over subscriptions for the Moosehead Messenger, which stopped printing in February, and replaced them with the Highlands Journal-Moosehead Times.
Another weekly paper published by Hometown Newspapers, the Penobscot Valley Explorer in Lincoln, was launched on March 22 and will continue publication. Its corresponding website was launched the same day. The company also is keeping its North Country magazine.
Pushard said the economy is one reason for closing the three papers, but the company wanted to focus its attention on its new website.
“We’re melding more tightly with an online presence,” said Pushard. “We want to have a website with a newspaper rather than a newspaper with a website. Rather than try to run both models simultaneously in this kind of market, we’re changing the model of how we do business.”
The transition has eliminated only one job. Pushard said the company averages between seven and nine employees.
He said the Penobscot Valley Explorer has received an enthusiastic response.
“In the Lincoln area, we have tremendous support. We’re cooking with gas up there,” said Pushard.
Articles on the website and in the paper will be generated largely from people in the community.
“They’ll be written by folks in the community about things they’re interested in,” he said. “The future of micronews is community-based journalism.
“When we had all of our papers, we were covering about 35 high schools. It’s hard to do with few employees,” said Pushard. “Now readers can get the news they find interesting into the paper [by writing it themselves].”
Pushard said the Penobscot Valley Explorer will have a solid web presence as well as features on the iPad and Android devices.
“We figure it will be a month or so to get the kinks out with all our people working on it at the same time,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid the mistakes print guys typically make and what all web guys typically make [in moving to new computer systems].”
Although the three papers were eliminated, there’s still a chance they could make a return, according to Pushard.
“If a group of people really miss the papers, they just need to contact us,” he said. “We’ll look at what it takes to get it back.”