Morehead and three other communities now without local newspaper
A total of four communities in Kentucky are without a local newspaper after its company decided to close the locations.
The Morehead News, Grayson Journal Enquirer, Olive Hill Times and Greenup News Times announced Wednesday their communities would no longer have a local source for news after their parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. shutdown the newsrooms. All four newspapers were a weekly publication.
A release posted in each of the final prints and online by Group Publisher Patty Bennett says the closures come after a lack of advertisements.
The Morehead News has been forced to scale back over the years since its existence in 1883. Most recently the paper was printing one publication a week and serving 35,000 readers each print and online, according to their website.
Bennett says coverage of Morehead will fall on the paper's partner at The Daily Independent, a mid-sized newspaper over an hour away in Ashland, Kentucky. Bennett calls the move a "merge" but would not comment on if the current newspaper staff would be offered jobs in Ashland. Though some close with the Morehead News along with Judge Executive Harry Clark tells WKYT the employees have been laid off and urged to file for unemployment. Bennett would only say all news operations were moving to Ashland without commenting further. When asked if any journalist would remain in Morehead to cover strictly local news, she again refrained from commenting.
Rowan County Judge Executive Harry Clark says the county was given no notice before the final news publication on April 29. Clark questions if the Ashland newspaper would adequately cover Morehead and says the majority in the county doesn't read The Daily Independent -- and never have nor will.
"The folks in Ashland probably don't care about what is going on in Morehead. They're more worried about what is going on in Ashland," said Clark. "There is definitely going to be a hole, it's going to leave a void."
Clark also has concerns about readings the county must legally print in local newspapers. His office spent around $25,000 a year in The Morehead News to pay for the legal ads. The Kentucky Press Association says when a county does not have a newspaper, the neighboring county with the largest subscriptions in the adjoining county will publish the ads. Rowan County does not border Boyd County where the Daily Independent is created therefore the ads cannot be printed in the paper. It's not clear which county will print the ads as of Friday.
University of Kentucky Journalism Professor and Director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Al Cross says it's not uncommon for a local newspaper to be swallowed by an adjoining county when needed. He says since Rowan County does not touch Boyd County, it does not make sense.
"It's really unusual for a company to reach out 55 miles from the daily newspaper and kill off a newspaper in a university town of 7,000 people and 25,000 people in the county," said Cross.
Cross says while the closings of newsrooms have accelerated the past 15 years he expects another newspaper will be printed in Morehead by a private or other company. With around 3,200 counties in the country only 200 are without local newspapers. Cross believes Morehead will not only want a newspaper but needs one to keep communication strong.
"This is the home of Morehead State University for god's sake," said Cross. "It's a town of 7,000 and a county of 25,000. It's about to have the largest greenhouse in the world and they have other industrial developments. It's not the type of town that will put up with losing its newspaper."
Patty Bennett says readers in Morehead can choose to have a refund for the remainder of their local newspaper's subscription instead of receiving The Daily Independent. Bennett says in her statement all restructuring questions can be sent to email@example.com, or call her office phone at 606-326-2601.
Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. owns over 100 newspapers across the United States. Other Kentucky newspapers owned by the company includes newspapers in Richmond, Somerset, Monticello, London and Corbin.