Heart-wrenching ending to a 150-year institution

A daily newspaper is a living organism that’s renewed each day with a new edition. Thus, when a newspaper dies, it is a time of mourning and reflection.

Today the 150-year-old Vindicator takes its final breath, bringing to an end a history of exceptional journalism. Thousands of employees have come and gone over the century-and-a-half, and while they were of different backgrounds and experiences, they shared a passion for news and the belief that The Vindicator had a calling: to be witness to the life of the Mahoning Valley.

We believe we have kept faith with you, our faithful readers.

On June 28, the publisher of The Vindicator, Betty H. Brown Jagnow, and her son, Mark Brown, the general manager, publicly announced the permanent closing of this great institution. They published a letter to our readers that not only explained why this painful decision was made, but expressed their deep concern for their employees and for the community that has lost an integral part of its life.

Here is the letter from the publisher and the general manager:

“Dear Vindicator Readers,

On June 25, 2019, The Vindicator turned 150 years old – a special birthday we have always looked forward to enjoying with our readers, advertisers, staff and carriers.

Regrettably, after four generations of Maag-Brown family ownership, The Vindicator will not have much of a birthday celebration.

Due to great financial hardships, we spent the last year searching for a buyer to continue to operate The Vindicator and preserve as many jobs as possible while maintaining the paper’s voice in the community. That search has been unsuccessful. As a result, with a deep sense of sadness and tremendous dismay, we notified our employees yesterday that The Vindicator would cease publication in 60 days. We anticipate the last day you will see us will be Saturday, Aug. 31.

Our staff has worked tirelessly to make The Vindicator the most relevant and respected provider of local and regional news in our area. Our political, government, community, business, entertainment and sports coverage is unmatched.

However, in recent years, we have been fighting against the tide of a changing newspaper business model and struggling to place The Vindicator on sound financial footing. We have attacked expenses with the cooperation of our employees and unions. We invested in new presses to become more competitive. We did everything we could to increase revenue, including raising the price of the newspaper, and to drive advertising revenue into the paper and website. However, in spite of our best efforts, advertising and circulation revenues have continued to decline, and The Vindicator continues to operate at a loss.

On a personal note, our decision to close The Vindicator is gut wrenching. Our family’s lives have revolved around and been defined by this newspaper for 132 years. William F. Maag Sr. bought the paper after a fire in 1887 and later became publisher. His son, William F. Maag Jr., followed him as publisher. William O. Brown, husband of Alma Maag Brown (Maag, Jr.’s sister), was the business manager during parts of both of the Maags’ time here. William J. Brown followed his father as the business manager and then his uncle as publisher. Betty Brown Jagnow became publisher upon her husband’s death, William J. Brown, my father. April 1 marked my mother’s 71st year of working here while I will only have 38 years in as of this June. As the saying goes, we have ink in our veins.

We are deeply grateful to you, our loyal readers and advertisers, for your support and for having the privilege of serving your needs. With your backing, we were able to fight battles over the years against corruption and for open government to help make our Valley a better place to call home.

We are also deeply grateful for the privilege of working alongside so many fine people who have called The Vindicator their home. Our staff and our carriers have been remarkable. They have worked through staff reductions, pay freezes, many a snowstorm and numerous changes and always tried to make The Vindicator the best it could be for our readers and advertisers.

It is with broken hearts that we say goodbye and a final thank you.

Very truly yours,

Betty H. Brown Jagnow, Publisher

Mark A. Brown, General Manager”