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North Liberty Leader newspaper shuts down
Thursday’s edition was the weekly paper’s last
NORTH LIBERTY — The final edition of the weekly North Liberty Leader was published Thursday.
Bob Woodward of Woodward Communications, which publishes the paper, told The Gazette some of the factors that led to the decision was the paper’s low subscriber count compared with the city’s population, as well as insufficient advertising support.
North Liberty is a city of just over 20,000 residents as of the last census count. The paper had 300 subscribers, Woodward said.
“We've been working to try and build subscribers over the years, but the reality of it is that it's a little bit different market,” Woodward said.
He brought up North Liberty’s proximity to Iowa City and Coralville, as well as other publications covering the city, including The Gazette, Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Daily Iowan.
The paper has been publishing since 1976, according to the North Liberty Leader’s Facebook page. Subscribers with prepaid subscriptions will be contacted for refunds of the unused balance.
Woodward Communications discontinued publication of the Marion Times last summer.
Woodward said the decision to discontinue publishing the Leader does not directly impact its other community papers — such as the Solon Economist and the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun — but added there have been conversations about the future of the Economist. Woodward said the Economist is “not currently sustainable” and said $150,000 has been lost in the Solon and North Liberty markets over the last three years.
“We're telling the Solon community, ‘If you guys want a local news presence, we want to be there for you, but you need to support us,’” Woodward said.
An “open letter” from Woodward to residents, subscribers and potential advertisers was published in Thursday’s edition of the Economist. In the letter, Woodward listed four options the company is considering for the Economist: keeping print and digital, converting to digital only, combining the Solon and Mount Vernon papers/websites or discontinuing the Economist’s print and digital publications.
The letter also listed how the paper has invested in technology with a new website, online editions of the print paper, newsletters and increased paper quality. But the paper has also seen challenges with labor, printing and distribution, Woodward wrote.
“We value and understand the importance of local journalism and local news media, and we hope that the communities that we're in do the same,” Woodward told The Gazette.
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