Community Papers of WNY, the owner of 21 weekly newspapers in Western New York, closed Monday. The closure comes about seven months after filing for bankruptcy in December 2015.
Employees were were reportedly notified by publisher James Austin early Monday afternoon that all Community Papers offices would close at 5 p.m. that day. The Springville Journal, one of the group’s weekly newspapers, was celebrating its 150th year of publication this year and posted the news on its website Monday.
"It is with a heavy heart that we at the Springville Journal have to announce the closing of our office, and Community Papers of Western New York. We were notified this afternoon that effective today, July 25, at 5 p.m. the Springville Journal will no longer be published," the paper reported. "Thank-you for allowing us into your homes, your businesses and your lives. It’s been a pleasure."
Among those losing their job in the company's bankruptcy battle and shutdown is Andrew Kuczkowski, who covered sports on a part-time basis for the company's editions in Hamburg, Springville and Gowanda. He explained to WBFO that he was hired around the time the company went bankrupt but was encouraged to stick it out.
What he laments is the loss of coverage that focused more directly on the smaller communities and their people.
"Springville still has a very tight fan base or family base," Kuczkowski said. "When I was talking to them, they'd sent a letter to my editor saying this kid's a nice guy."
Kuczkowski pointed out that as he was reading the news of the company's demise, he had been invited to the graduation party of a local student-athlete he would no longer get to cover.
On Friday, Austin reportedly had been notified by the court that the company would no longer be protected from creditors, including the Buffalo News, which reports the newspaper chain owes it $1.7 million. He had purchased the newspapers in 2014.
Among the papers in the group included several Pennysavers and Sun papers in Erie County. According to the papers' LinkedIn profile, the company had 130 employees who worked out of six office locations.
A number of people posted comments on the Springville Journal's website in response to the closing.
"So sad," said Jacquelyn Mumbach. "The Springville Journal is and has been a very important part of several communities. I hope there is a way that it can be reopened."
"We were never Springville-West Valley (ers) born here." said Paul and Patricia Bentkowski. "Yet, we moving here a few years ago, the Journal always brought a sense of “Mayberry” like feel and comfort. We shall truly miss its publication. "
"OMG…. NOOOO!! The Journal has been my weekly “letter from home” for over 46 years!" said Jean Kiedrowski. "It has followed us from Long Beach, California to Niantic , Connecticut and here in Ontario, New York since moving out of Springville in 1970. Will it still be available as an online newspaper? I hope so, it’s my way of staying in touch with Springville!!"