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The Vindicator to stop production Aug. 31

About 250 carriers, 144 employees will be displaced

YOUNGSTOWN — After more than 150 years covering news in the Mahoning Valley, The Vindicator will stop publishing a newspaper Aug. 31.

About 144 employees and 250 carriers will be displaced, according to Vindicator management.

Newspaper executives broke the news to employees mid-Friday afternoon and shortly thereafter, WFMJ, which is owned by the same family as The Vindicator, published a story on its website announcing the closure.

A Vindicator newsroom employee told the Tribune Chronicle that employees there were asked to keep the news close to the chest to give management an opportunity to let night workers know of the decision. General manager Mark Brown said the last shift of employees was notified around 8 p.m. He also said the newspaper filed a mandatory Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice with the state on Friday.

“Our biggest concern is for our employees. We have a tremendous staff here, and it is sad we cannot keep them employed,” he said Friday evening.

Brown said the decision to close came down to money. He said the newspaper was operating in the red for 20 of the last 22 years, drawing down against a substantial rainy day fund to keep it going.

However, when the journalism industry started to change with more of a focus on the internet, The Vindicator already was so far in the red, it couldn’t recover as ad revenue and circulation continued to fall, he said.

Brown said he has been at the newspaper for 38 years and his mother, publisher Betty Jagnow, who turns 89 this year, has been in it for 71 years.

“We are both understandably upset. We never expected we would have to shut down. We always hoped we would find a buyer,” Brown said.

He said the newspaper was put up for sale in the spring of 2018, and although several people expressed interest, none of the offers were viable and it became clear the newspaper would have to fold.

The announcement comes just days after the newspaper celebrated its 150th anniversary. WFMJ employees were told in writing Friday the decision will not affect the television station.

“We have no plans, no intentions, no desire, no thoughts and no interest in selling WFMJ. Period,” Brown said.

The newspaper published its first edition on June 25, 1869, and eventually became the only newspaper in Mahoning County. It also covers Trumbull County, but coverage there has waned for the past five years.

First published by James H. Odell, the newspaper was bought by William F. Maag Sr. in 1887. William F. Maag Jr. took over as editor and publisher following his father’s death in 1924, according to WFMJ.

After Maag Jr. died in 1968, his nephew, William Brown, became publisher and president until his death in 1981. Since then, Brown’s widow, Jagnow, has served as publisher and president, and their son, Mark Brown, has served as general manager.

“This is not something we ever expected to do. Shutdown work will keep me busy for at least a year and then we have to sell the building,” Brown said. “It is sad. This is the end of an era.”

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