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Vindicator files official WARN notice

Newspaper layoffs to come in several phases through October

YOUNGSTOWN — The Vindicator has filed its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice with the state, following the newspaper’s announcement late last month that it would cease publication Aug. 31 after more than 150 years as a daily newspaper in Youngstown.

Vindicator management said when the closure was announced that 144 employees and 250 carriers would be displaced. The WARN notice also states 144 employees would lose their jobs, but it will happen in waves, with 132 being laid off within a 14-day period of Aug. 31.

Those affected in the first round of layoffs include 40 newsroom employees as well as mailroom, advertising, circulation, classified and pressroom employees, the notice states. The second round of layoffs will begin within a 14-day period of Oct. 31 and includes the director of human resources, accounts payable manager, advertising manager, circulation manager and pressroom supervisor.

The notice states the third round of layoffs will begin shortly after the second once wrap-up activities are concluded. The affected employees include accounting clerk, payroll, assistant general manager, collections, information technology director, production director and maintenance.

Newspaper executives broke the news to employees mid-afternoon on June 28 and shortly thereafter, WFMJ, which is owned by the same family as The Vindicator, published a story on its website announcing the closure.

General manager Mark Brown said last week 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.

He said the newspaper was put up for sale in spring 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 came just days after the newspaper celebrated its 150th anniversary. WFMJ employees were told in writing the decision will not affect the television station.

The newspaper published its first edition on June 25, 1869, and eventually became the only daily 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.

mkosinski@tribtoday.com

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