(Host) The Claremont, New Hampshire, area lost its daily newspaper earlier this month when the Eagle Times abruptly closed.
That loss has created a local ‘news vacuum’ in the region. And a former competitor up the river from Claremont hopes to fill it.
VPR’s Ross Sneyd has the story.
(Sneyd) Phones started ringing at the Valley News in Lebanon almost as soon as the final edition of the Eagle Times hit the streets with the news of its own demise.
Valley News Publisher Mark Travis says the people of Claremont, Springfield and neighboring towns had a simple message …
(Travis) "Hundreds of phone calls from people saying they want daily local news coverage. And we were taken aback by how many calls we started getting and continue to be taken aback."
(Sneyd) The Valley News is relatively small, with a daily circulation of 16,400.
The day after the Eagle Times closed, the Valley News signed up 70 new subscribers. Since then, it’s added close to 2,000 more.
So the Valley News has decided to become the local newspaper for Claremont.
The newspaper will hire a full-time reporter to cover Claremont and nearby towns from Windsor and Springfield, Vermont, to Newport, New Hampshire.
Until that new person is hired, a veteran reporter on the Valley News staff has been assigned to full-time coverage in Claremont, supplemented by the work of part-time free-lancers.
Travis says it’s a natural fit for his newspaper, which has traditionally covered bigger stories from Claremont.
(Travis) "It’s part of the valley and we’re going to cover it like we cover any of our other communities."
(Sneyd) Until now, the focus of the Valley News has been further north, around Lebanon and Hanover in New Hampshire and Hartford in Vermont.
Claremont adds a big base of potential readership for the Valley News – and possibly advertisers. But Travis concedes that this is also a gamble for his newspaper.
(Travis) "The risk is that it’s hard to support a newspaper through readership alone. You need additional advertising dollars, too. So, to maintain the level of coverage we want to provide, and the level of coverage that we actually think is necessary to hold on to the readers we’ve got, serve the community well, we’re going to need increased advertising support, as well."
(Sneyd) All of that during a recession. And at a time when newspapers around the country are struggling to survive in a world that’s dominated by free access to the Internet.
The Rutland Herald already has a bureau in Springfield and might have chosen to expand into the region abandoned by the Eagle Times.
Publisher John Mitchell says the Herald will stick closer to home.
(Mitchell) "We’ve got enough to cover between Springfield and Rutland, believe me. It’s a large area. All of Windsor County and Ludlow and Chester. I’d much rather spend the money in Ludlow and Chester than going across the river. Let’s put it that way. We just don’t have the resources to go over to New Hampshire. It’s not in our vision. We’re a Vermont company."
(Sneyd) The Valley News won’t be without competition in Claremont. A Web site – yourclaremontpress.com – already has started posting local news, sports and even obituaries.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.