A lawmaker whose district includes communities that have been covered for decades by the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Canada Valley Sun, which are ceasing publication, said Friday that Congress needs to examine ways to support local journalism.
The Los Angeles Times announced Thursday that it plans to stop publishing the three community newspapers, and that the 14 staff members who work for those titles are being laid off with severance. Final editions of the weekly News-Press and Leader are planned for Saturday, and the last issue of the weekly Valley Sun is slated for April 23.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement saying he is "deeply worried that the loss of these three papers is being repeated all over the country in communities large and small. It has been going on for years, but the sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated these trends, and more and more places are becoming news deserts, without dedicated journalists to investigate corruption and tell local stories.
"This is a tremendous loss, and a threat to democracy. Though there are no easy answers, I believe it is important that Congress examine ways we can support local journalism of the sort the News-Press, the Leader, and the Sun have practiced for many years," the congressman said.
Schiff noted that he has "read these papers for decades and had the privilege of working with many of their reporters and editors. And while I'm sure I took issue with some of their articles from time to time -- as it should be -- I never once doubted their skill and professionalism, or their passion for serving our community. Whether it was uncovering wrongdoing or profiling one of our amazing residents or documenting our community coming together, you could be certain these papers would be there."
The Times, in a letter to readers, called it "a difficult business decision in a trying time for community newspapers compounded by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic."
"The three titles, while journalistically sound, are operating at significant losses. Advertising has fallen off for several years, and each publication's print circulation -- paid and free combined -- is about 5,000 copies at each of the three newspapers."
The Glendale News-Press dates to 1905, and the Burbank Leader was founded in 1985, a successor to the Burbank Daily Review, which was founded in 1908. The La Canada Valley Sun was launched in April 1946.
The Times purchased the News-Press and Leader in 1993 and the Valley Sun in 2005. The papers became part of The Times Community News division. They were distributed for free at local businesses, in newspaper racks and to The Times home-delivery subscribers in those areas.
The two remaining Times Community News publications, the Daily Pilot and TimesOC, will continue publishing in Orange County.