Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown skyline, taken on Dec. 20, 2015. View more photos from Joseph on Flickr:

MOUNT VERNON – What happens when a community loses its only source of local news? The people of Youngstown, Ohio, are about to find out the hard way. 

Just four years after the Civil War ended, the Youngstown Vindicator was established. On Aug. 31, after more than 150 years in operation, one of our state's legacy publications will close.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips

Unfortunately, it's not unusual for a paper to close in this era of news; a University of North Carolina study shows approximately 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers have shuttered in the past few years. But few of them were ever as big, or as important, as The Vindicator.

Beyond its size and influence, what makes this story more staggering is The Vindicator has been owned by four generations of the Maag-Brown family. It wasn't held hostage by Wall Street's whims. This was a clan with a serious stake in the region.

The Vindicator tried a number of methods to reverse a trend of losing money in 20 of the past 22 years. It even put a "For Sale" sign on the business. Nothing worked. No new owner could be found.

So, on Aug. 31, the doors will close, jobs will be lost, and the watchdog for a community of 250,000 people in the Mahoning Valley will be put to sleep. 

City councils, school boards, county commissioners, local police, sheriff's office and all other public entities will lose a layer of scrutiny that has proven vital over the years. Holding those elected officials accountable, and trumpeting their triumphs was the charge of The Vindicator, as it is for most local newspapers.

Also lost in the wake of this announcement is the record-keeping of personal lives and milestones. Keepsakes like announcements for births, engagements, weddings, obituaries, property transfers, real-estate transactions - the mundane details of everyday, wonderful life, perhaps gone.

It's tragic, and strikes at the soul of a community.

Nearly 100 miles west, the Knox, Richland, and Ashland county areas have the luxury of multiple news organizations scouring the community for stories that engage and inform readers. Yet few are locally-owned and operated. 

The events unfolding in Youngstown are a stark reminder of what could happen to us, too - but only if we let it. 

In the wake of such a shock to a community, when feelings of helplessness and despair threaten to overwhelm, the best counteraction is summed up best by Vindicator reporter Kalea Hall:

"I beg people to support local journalism. It’s essential to democracy."

That's where you come in. 

There is no better time than now to become a Source Member - no better time to declare your support of local news in a world that seems to be shouting the opposite.

Publications like Knox Pages or The Vindicator rely on support from readers like you. You are the lifeblood of our operation, the "how" and "why" we do what we do. 

We mean it when we say we want to do journalism with our community. It's only together that we can continue our mission of telling the whole story of the communities we serve, and uncovering effective responses to problems that hold us back from our true potential.

A membership with Knox Pages says you believe supporting independent, local news means a better community for all of us.

Help us honor the legacy of papers like The Vindicator and so many others by saving Knox County from the same fate.

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