updated 7/17/2007 1:36:57 PM ET 2007-07-17T17:36:57

The E.W. Scripps Co. said Tuesday it will end publication of The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post on Dec. 31, when a joint operating agreement with Gannett Co. and The Cincinnati Enquirer expires.

The Cincinnati Post dates to 1881, and once had a circulation 10 times greater than the current 27,000 weekday subscribers.

Gannett, a newspaper and broadcasting company based in McLean, Va., gave notification three years ago that it would not renew the 1977 agreement, in which it was responsible for business operations of the Post newspapers, including advertising and subscription sales, production and distribution.

Cincinnati-based Scripps has maintained an independent editorial department at The Post but doesn’t have advertising and circulation sales staffs or other production and business employees, nor printing capability.

Scripps and Gannett have shared the combined profits of the newspapers.

“It’s always a difficult decision to cease publication of a newspaper, especially two with such fine traditions of journalistic excellence and community service as The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post,” Rich Boehne, chief operating officer for Scripps, said in a statement.

Changing reader habits, pushed by the rise of television news and other media sources, have taken a toll on afternoon newspapers in the United States. Scripps said paid circulation for the Post newspapers has fallen from about 188,000 when the agreement started to 27,000 Monday through Friday, and 37,000 on Saturday.

At its peak in 1960, The Post had a daily circulation of more than 270,000. At that time, the nation had 1,459 afternoon newspapers, but was down to 614 at the end of 2006, according to Editor & Publisher, an industry journal.

The decision will affect 52 full-time newsroom employees, who will be offered severance packages, including outplacement services and three months of paid medical benefits, Scripps said.

Mike Philipps, editor of The Post newspapers, said editors began informing staffers in person and by phone before 6 a.m. He said the announcement was not a surprise.

“We saw it coming,” Philipps said. “We all see what’s happening in our industry.”

Scripps had explored options for The Post newspapers, including as an Internet-only operation and publishing on its own.

“The investment that would be needed to continue publishing a daily newspaper that could successfully compete in a marketplace with so many media alternatives would be prohibitive,” said Boehne, a former Post employee.

Scripps noted that it still will compete in the Cincinnati news market with its television station, WCPO, and its wcpo.com Web site.

In a time of declining newspaper circulation, the company has aggressively diversified with popular cable TV networks such as HGTV and the Food Network, and other businesses including the online search and comparison shopping services Shopzilla and uSwitch. Scripps operates newspapers in 17 markets, including the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.

It also has an interest in the United Media licensing and syndication company.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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