The Post newspapers printed their final editions Monday, ending a 126-year run. However, the final editions also carried some news — their parent company will keep a remnant alive in the form of a Kentucky-oriented online site.
"-30-", a symbol traditionally used by journalists, printers and telegraphers to signal the end of a dispatch, proclaimed the front-page headline in the last Cincinnati and Kentucky newspaper editions.
In a front page story about the closing, editor Mike Philipps said: "It's a sad day, but we're going out with heads high. This paper made a difference in the community."
The Post and its sister Kentucky Post edition have been struggling for decades, part of a national decline in afternoon newspapers and of multiple daily newspapers in U.S. cities. E.W. Scripps Co., based in Cincinnati, decided in July to close The Post newspapers when a joint operating agreement with Gannett Co. expired at the end of 2007.
In a story in Monday's editions headlined "Web site to carry on Post tradition," The Post reported that the Scripps company will keep a Kentucky presence with kypost.com. The site beginning Tuesday will supersede the current Post site and will share content with the Scripps-owned Cincinnati TV station WCPO-TV and its Web site.
One Post staffer, Kerry Duke, will stay on as the site's managing editor. The site will also use a full-time reporter, freelance journalists and contributions from "citizen journalists" in addition to WCPO and news services. The site will focus on the three counties just across the Ohio River, the northern Kentucky area where the majority of The Post newspapers' last subscribers have been.
‘It’s sad but inevitable’
The site expects to be sustained by advertising, particularly ads targeted to what it calls "life in the 859," the northern Kentucky telephone area code.
"It's a low-cost approach, but if you want to maintain the presence, it's probably the only alternative," said John Morton, an independent newspaper industry analyst based in Silver Spring, Md. "It's better than going out completely, and clearly there is opportunity there."
Rich Boehne, Scripps' chief operating officer, said Scripps hopes to gradually build the kypost.com site.
"It's been an incredible brand in northern Kentucky," he said.
Boehne was among dozens of newspaper executives and retirees who gathered to watch the last editions roll off at The Cincinnati Enquirer's printing center.
"It's sad but inevitable," said William R. Burleigh, Scripps' chairman and former Post editor. "There's a lot of history, a lot of wonderful people."
Philipps, a 30-year veteran of the newspaper, said the final editions Monday were focusing on the newspaper itself as a keepsake. Some 9,000 extra copies were printed beyond the paper's weekday circulation of about 27,000. The editions included stories about The Post's history, remembrances from staffers and readers, archival photos such as actor Cary Grant's 1955 visit to The Post newsroom, and farewell columns.
"We're going to make ourselves count right to the end," he said earlier. The staff must then turn to myriad tasks of shutting down, such as cleaning out drawers, turning in laptops and keys, processing paperwork and turning off phones.
The Post was known for colorful, lively journalism, investigations and crusades against political cronyism and for civic reforms, and for launching numerous employees to successful careers in journalism, communications and education.
Originally called The Penny Paper when it was started in 1881, the paper was renamed The Penny Post by E.W. Scripps, who assumed control in 1883. The newspaper became The Cincinnati Post in 1890, when its Kentucky Post edition began.
Down to 50 staffers
The Post newsroom was down to about 50 people at the end, and its daily circulation was less than a tenth of the 270,000-plus it enjoyed in 1960, before changing lifestyles, the expansion of television news, and later, the rise of multimedia news and advertising sources, sapped readership. Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio's two largest cities, lost an afternoon paper each decades ago.
Joint operating agreements under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 allow newspapers to merge business operations when one is facing financial failure. Gannett, which owns The Cincinnati Enquirer where the Post had been printed for about three decades, notified The Post three years ago it would not renew their agreement when it ended.
Scripps plans in June to split its businesses into two companies. A new company called Scripps Networks Interactive will take national cable networks such as the Food Network and HGTV and online shopping businesses, while the E.W. Scripps company focuses on newspapers and broadcast TV stations. Boehne, the one-time Post reporter who will head the restructured Scripps company, said it will maintain a strong local news presence with WCPO-TV, wcpo.com, and the kypost site.
Many readers and officials in Cincinnati and the nearby northern Kentucky communities The Post served have lamented its passing.
"A piece of history has gone. Obviously a voice has gone," said Alicia Reece, an Ohio tourism official and former Post intern who served on the Cincinnati City Council. "On the other hand, they were a foundation for a lot of writers and other people who moved into higher positions. So the legacy lives on."