Staff, townspeople shocked by abrupt closure of weekly newspaper
UPDATE: After deadline Tuesday, it was announced that the Herington Times has been purchased by Kansas Publishing Ventures, which owns newspapers in Andale and Newton and the Hillsboro Free Press.
With little traffic Sunday in downtown Herington, Cindy Weekly stood relaxed about 15 feet out in Broadway St., cellphone held high, facing another weekly, the Herington Times, to say goodbye.
“I wanted a picture to send to my brother,” she said. “Ever since I’ve been alive it’s been here. I hate to see it close.”
The 127-year-old Times closed Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Holden, Missouri-based publisher John Roberts notified staff of his decision.
“We found out via email the evening before,” staff member Kim Morris said. “Everybody’s heartbroken. To have it closed with no follow-up articles, no preparing the community — everybody’s taking it really hard.”
Roberts declined to make any comments regarding the closure.
“Business has always been iffy, but we thought we were on the upside,” Morris said. “It’s a business and ultimately you have to do what’s good for your business.”
Morris said the Times employed three in-house staff and two freelance writers.
“I grew up with it; it’s definitely going to be a loss,” Herington mayor Kat Souza said. “I know a lot of the citizens and businesses are going to be disappointed not having that service available. Hopefully we can find something else that can work for us.”
Souza grew up near Lost Springs, but both of her parents worked in Herington, she said. Articles clipped from the Times chronicle events from her childhood.
“They’re in scrapbooks, they’re everywhere,” she said.
Larry Byers spent 34 years as editor and publisher of the Times before selling it to Roberts in 2007.
“I’m somewhat brokenhearted over it,” he said. “It’s almost like unexpectedly losing a relative or a close friend. It’s gone. There’s not going to be a historical record of the town.”
Byers said the Times likely suffered from a decline in advertising revenue due to loss of retail businesses, plus declining circulation.
Roberts had intended to move to Herington when he bought the newspaper, Byers said, but when a cousin who published the Holden (Missouri) Image died unexpectedly, Roberts stepped in.
“In a very short time he had acquired two publications, one by design, one not,” Byers said.
Many comments on social media expressed concern about the fate of years of bound editions kept at the newspaper office. Herington Historical Society and Museum has some, but Byers said the Times had 50 to 60 years worth at the office when he left.
Weekly said she took advantage of the office archives to retrieve family birth and death announcements.
“I’m glad I got in there and got them because I didn’t know this was going to happen,” she said.
An annual Veterans Day edition featuring three to four pages of veterans’ pictures and service details is what Morris said she would miss most.
“Our veterans section was our biggest seller,” she said. “That’s the most heartbreaking about it, that there won’t be another.”
Unconfirmed reports say a sale of the newspaper to a new publisher may still be possible.