Ballston Journal ending print edition
214-year-old paper going digital only
BALLSTON SPA A Saratoga County newspaper that has published since John Adams was president and John Jay was governor — the oldest continuously publishing weekly paper in the state — has ceased print publication and is going all digital.
The 214-year-old Ballston Journal is stopping print publication with the current Dec. 21 edition, publisher Angela McFarland said.
The paper, first published in 1798, has been the oldest continuously publishing weekly in New York state, according to the New York Press Association.
McFarland, in an article in this week’s final edition, cited increasing printing costs and declining advertising revenue as driving factors behind the decision — but she said its role as a community news organization will continue.
“Our coverage will continue as usual and actually push out a little faster with digital means and electronic emails,” McFarland said Monday. “Ironically, most of our audience is already working with us in this fashion as our Web and social media traffic, as well as online subscriptions, began outpacing the requests for the printed edition earlier this year.”
The paper, with a print circulation of about 2,200, has been losing money in recent years — and its print demise is part of a nationwide trend that has seen daily and weekly newspapers close or change formats in the last decade. Big publications are effected, too — Newsweek will also put out its last print edition this week, though it also will continue as an online periodical.
In an interview in this week’s paper, McFarland said she has sought help in recent months from local officials, two chambers of commerce and the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., but none was able to offer financial assistance or new investment in the struggling paper.
“Disappointing,” McFarland is quoted as saying. “As the second-oldest still-operating business in Saratoga County and as a locally owned and operated small business, I had hoped for just a little more attention and concern for a newspaper so highly valued by our community for over two centuries.”
The paper is working with a consultant in online publications and an attorney to help with financial restructuring, McFarland said Monday.
Ballston Spa Mayor John P. Romano said he was sorry to see the demise of the paper, which he has read since childhood.
“It’s a shock to see it go out of business in print,” Romano said. “I’m a traditionalist. I like reading the paper in the morning. They have covered the village for a long time.”
The publication will be enhancing its website and installing a partial paywall, with special benefits available for paid subscribers.
McFarland, a local resident who has previously published “Our Towne” advertising circulars, purchased the paper in the spring of 2009.
Under her ownership, the Journal has relied on an often-changing team of freelance writers; two years ago, it closed its physical office on Milton Avenue, and writers worked from their homes or other spaces.
The paper continued to cover community news, including having reporters attending town and school meetings in Ballston, Milton and Malta that daily newspapers often didn’t cover.
McFarland bought the paper from the Hearst Corp., which had owned it since 1999, and had announced plans to close it if it couldn’t be sold.
Before that, the Journal was in the Grose-Hogan family for 139 years.
Nationwide, newspapers big and small are struggling to retain readership and advertising. Many have cut staff and some are ceasing print publication or reducing the number of days they publish. Some, like the Journal, have gone to all-digital publication.
McFarland said she wants the online Journal to remain a source of local journalism.
“My career is 20 years long on the advertising side of the fence; I’ve learned in a short few years about the value of true journalism and why a newspaper in a community the size of Ballston Spa is so valued,” she said. “It’s a connection that’s indescribable sometimes and I hope we find a way to maintain that in our digital path.”