The Youngstown Vindicator will be shutting down at the end of August, making the Ohio town the largest in the US without a newspaper:
It was in the late 1920s that the Ku Klux Klan regularly began gathering outside the home of William F Maag Jr in Youngstown. Maag owned the Vindicator newspaper, which unlike others in this once prosperous part of Ohio, had been willing to criticize the racist Klansmen.
Men on horseback, clad in white robes and hoods, would burn crosses and flaunt rifles and shotguns, in an attempt at intimidation. It didn’t work. The men of the Maag family would stand outside their home, themselves armed, refusing to be cowed, as the Vindicator continued to expose government officials who were part of the Klan.
That defiance set the tone for decades of investigative, combative reporting from the Vindicator. The daily newspaper relentlessly reported on the mafia, the government, big business and even its own advertisers.
But no more. Soon after celebrating 150 years since its first edition came news that was devastating to many in Youngstown and the wider Mahoning valley. The Vindicator was shutting down at the end of August. For good.
The Vindicator’s closure means Youngstown will soon be the largest city in the US without a major newspaper, and is the latest blow to an ailing American news industry. According to the University of North Carolina, more than 2,000 US newspapers have closed since 2004, and at least 1,300 communities have completely lost news coverage in the past 15 years. In July a Pew Research Center study reported that the number of journalists in the US declined 47% between 2008 and 2018.
The Vindicator became known for tackling the mafia and corrupt officials. The work of De Souza and other reporters in the late 1980s contributed to almost 70 elected officials, mafia members and businesspeople being convicted of criminal acts.
Despite the quality of the coverage, sales have declined over the past four decades. From selling 100,000 copies in the late 1970s – 160,000 on Sundays – the Vindicator is now down to 25,000 editions daily, and 32,000 on Sunday. The paper has lost money for 20 of the last 22 years, Brown said, with a family fund covering the losses. Brown hoped to ultimately sell the Vindicator, but no buyers were forthcoming. He explored a paywall, but the numbers didn’t work. Neither did making the Vindicator online-only.
Well, this sucks.