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Communities notified that seven Pittsburgh-area weekly newspapers will close

Premium content from Pittsburgh Business Times - by Tim Schooley

Date: Monday, June 23, 2008, 12:00am EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008, 5:50pm EDT

The Tribune-Review Publishing Co. is preparing to thin the ranks of the suburban weekly newspapers it operates under its Gateway Newspapers unit, sources say.

Several business owners, local government officials and school district administrative staff members told the Business Times that they have received notice from Gateway that the company will cease publication of seven of its weekly titles by next week.

In an e-mail to the Penn Hills Library, a Gateway staff reporter cited a "reconfiguration of Gateway Newspapers" as the reason for the closure of the Penn Hills Progress, along with six other papers. The last edition of the Progress was scheduled to be June 26, the e-mail said.

Gateway publishes 17 weekly newspapers. The reconfiguration will bring that number to 10. According to sources inside and outside Gateway, the seven slated for closure are: Penn Hills Progress, Woodland Hills Progress, McKnight Journal, North Journal, Coraopolis-Moon Record, Advance Leader and Bridgeville Area News.

Several of the newspapers have a long history in their communities. The Advance Leader has been covering the eastern communities of Oakmont and Verona since 1937, and the Penn Hills Progress was launched after World War II. From that foundation, founder Ed Dardenell built a chain of suburban weeklies, which he sold in the 1970s.

Ralph Martin, CEO of Tribune-Review Publishing's parent, North Side-based Trib Total Media, and Kim Palmiero, managing editor at Gateway, did not return voice mail messages left at their offices. Sources who spoke to the Business Times with the condition that their names not be published because they work for Gateway said a handful of jobs will be eliminated.

Two weeks ago, Martin told the Business Times that Trib Total Media is considering a strategy to consolidate its printing operations and perhaps develop a new printing plant.

Oakmont Councilman Allan Kennedy said he was informed about the Advance Leader's fate and expects the community will turn to the Valley News-Dispatch, another Trib publication, for local coverage. The Valley News-Dispatch is a daily paper that covers the communities of the Allegheny Valley, such as Tarentum and West Deer, as well as Oakmont and Verona.

"It will be missed," Kennedy said of the Advance Leader. "We'll just have to change our focus to the other paper."

Community coverage

Often, such weeklies cover their communities with a level of detail that daily newspapers with larger coverage areas don't, including everything from school lunch menus to local community fundraisers.

Russ Truby, an owner of the Burket Truby Funeral Home in Oakmont, said he also has received notification of the Advance Leader's pending closure. He said one of his concerns is that the Len Anderson Christmas Fund, named after the newspaper's founder, will need to find a new place to be publicized after growing into a community institution.

"It's a loss for the community because it keeps people informed of local news," Truby said, who was also an advertiser. "People need to support their local business or they can't stay in business."

Tim Williams, president of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said he had not heard of any pending closures at Gateway but has seen other newspaper companies in the state start up suburban weeklies only to fold them later.

"It depends a lot on the demographics of the communities," Williams said. "In order to have a newspaper, you have to be profitable." | (412) 208-3826

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