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Friday, July 10, 2009

Eagle-Times, 2 other papers close doors

Snagged from

Publisher to declare bankruptcy today

By Susan Smallheer Staff Writer - Published: July 10, 2009
CLAREMONT, N.H. — As one staffer put it, the Eagle ran out of Time Thursday.The Eagle-Times, a daily newspaper that served the city of Claremont and communities on both sides of the Connecticut River, published its last edition today.Harvey Hill, publisher and owner of the paper, told employees Thursday afternoon that he would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy today. Employees were told to turn in their keys at the end of their shift Thursday."We did our best to continue the operations, but the economy and the changes in the newspaper industry have made it impossible to continue this business. Thank you for your support over the years and the dedication you showed to his newspaper," he wrote in a staffwide e-mail."It's the paradigm shift," said one staffer, referring to the changes affecting the newspaper industry in New England and beyond, from the troubles at the Boston Globe to small-town Claremont."I'm saddened; it's awful close to home," said John Mitchell, president and publisher of the Rutland Herald, which competed head-to-head with the Eagle in many Vermont towns. "I thought smaller papers were doing OK for the most part."Eric Francis of White River Junction, who wrote for The Spectator and the Eagle-Times as a freelancer for several years, said the staff worked to get the final edition completed Thursday afternoon.He said that the closing shocked everyone. "Harvey said it was just economics," Francis said, noting the past year or so had been "rocky," with the papers experiencing a high turnover rate in editors.Staffers said the closing affects not just the Eagle-Times, but Hill's other publications including The Message, a shopper based in Chester, Vt., and the Connecticut Valley Spectator of Lebanon, N.H., both weekly publications. Hill bought the popular Message a few years ago, and started the Spectator in 2002.The news shocked not just the employees, but people who got their daily dose of hometown news and sports from the 7,800-circulation paper. On Thursday, the front page included news about the rebuilding of Aumand's, a furniture store in Walpole, N.H., which burned a year ago, and a story about how Josh the camel from Lempster, N.H., had made the record books being the first camel to make it up Mount Washington in the White Mountains."Holy smokes," said former state Sen. Edgar May of Springfield, who was the subject of a Sunday magazine feature earlier in the week."I have a special affection for American journalism for obvious reasons for having worked in it for many years," said May, who won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in the 1960s. "It's a very sad time when any newspaper dies because a newspaper has been the centerpiece of changing public policy and improving the lives of so many people," he said."The closing of a newspaper means a little piece of democracy has died," he said. "There are some very important issues that have required skilled, intensive reporting that only newspapers can do."May's comments were typical of people contacted late Thursday, as news of the papers' closure became public.Hill, in an e-mail to employees, said he and his wife Christina could no longer afford subsidizing the paper. Hill bought the Eagle-Times about 15 years ago after a successful career in the paper manufacturing business.Hill said he and his wife had paid for the employees' health insurance through the end of July, and that employees would get their final paycheck, plus vacation pay, next week.He attributed the papers' closing to the economic crisis, as well as the widespread problems in the newspaper industry."It's very sad," said Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., who had worked with Hill on a variety of projects over the years."On a lot of levels, I appreciate what Harvey and Christina have done. But I know it's been a struggle. The closing will leave a huge void in this region," Flint said.The Eagle-Times was created in the 1960s with the merger of two newspapers: the Claremont Eagle and the Times-Reporter, which was based in Springfield. For years, the paper operated out of an office in downtown Claremont on Sullivan Street, but eventually it built a new plant on the outskirts of the city on River Street – with a wonderful view of Vermont.Matt DeRienzo, now the publisher of the Torrington (Conn.) Register, started at the Eagle in 1999 as a reporter and left in 2003 as managing editor."I think that Harvey and Christina have sunk so much of their personal money and time into the papers, they are not in it for the money. They cared about the community," DeRienzo said.DeRienzo said Hill, a native son of Charlestown, N.H., grew up on a farm just down the road from the paper's location on River Road. He returned to the area after a career in paper manufacturing, got bored with retirement and bought his hometown paper.But in a perfect indication of how news spreads in the 21st century, DeRienzo said he didn't hear about the closing of the Eagle from the Associated Press news wire, or a telephone call from Hill or fellow staffers, or even an e-mail, but from the social networking site Facebook.A friend, a former staffer of the Spectator, now a freelancer in New Hampshire, posted news of the paper's closing on her Facebook page, he