July 23, 2011

Alaska Native corporation says it will close its chain of six rural weekly newspapers

UPDATE, Aug. 3: The editor of the Cordova paper is buying it, thus preserving the oldest paper in the chain, but others are scheduled to print their last editions the week of Aug. 15. "The company said it continues to entertain offers for the individual publications," Alaska Dispatch reports.

The Alaska Native corporation that has published a chain of six weekly newspapers for rural Alaska for 19 years is liquidating its newspaper company after failing to find a buyer, leaving most of the rural communities without a local news outlet.

Calista Corp. said Alaska Newspapers Inc. is unprofitable and will stop publishing some time next month. ANI publishes The Cordova Times on Prince William Sound, The Seward Phoenix Log on the Kenai Peninsula, The Dutch Harbor Fisherman in the Aleutian Islands, The Bristol Bay Times in Southwest Alaska, and The Tundra Drums in the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta (the corporation's service area), The Arctic Sounder in Northwest Alaska and the North Slope, and First Alaskans magazine. Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News, in a comprehensive story, notes that The Cordova Times is 97 years old.

About three years ago, the company brought its field reporters into its Anchorage office, occasionally sending them out to their coverage areas, then re-stationed reporters in (from west on Google map) Unalaska, Bethel, Seward and Cordova. It started a content-sharing agreement with Alaska Dispatch, an online publication founded in 2008 and funded since 2009 by Alice Rogoff, former chief financial officer of U.S. News & World Report. The Dispatch's Craig Medred writes, "Newspapers in rural Alaska have been struggling like those elsewhere as news increasingly moves to the Internet." He notes the withdrawal of the Daily News to its home area, and lists the other dailies in the state and their owners, none based in Alaska.

"We genuinely hope the communities affected by this will find a new media voice to tell their stories," Calista CEO Andrew Guy said in the corporation's announcement.

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