September 6, 2013
A big player in the Charlottesville media market will soon stop the presses.
The owners of the Hook newspaper announced Friday afternoon that it's combining with its former competitor, C-VILLE Weekly.
"It's a sad thing, and it's a hard thing after you've worked at a paper for a dozen years or nearly a dozen years, and you've done week after week of work and been proud of the product that you put out. It's hard and it's painful," said Courteney Stuart, editor of the Hook.
The Hook's owner, the Charlottesville Publishing Group, said in a release that the paper will publish its last issue on Sept. 26. The publishing group formed two-and-a-half years ago to oversee production of both the Hook and C-VILLE Weekly. Previously, the two papers acted separately.
The publishing group says the combination of resources is to better serve the readers, advertisers and staff.
Stuart has worked at the Hook since its beginnings in 2002.
"We, in three weeks, put together the first issue," she said. "It hit the stands. It was kind of a risky endeavor because there was already another paper in town."
She acknowledges that having two alternative weeklies in a market the size of Charlottesville was unusual, but it seemed to work in the Hook's 12-year history. C-VILLE Weekly has been around since 1989.
"From a free speech, free press point of view, we believe that the more press you have, the more media coverage, good media outlets that you have, the better," said Josh Wheeler, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech.
Wheeler said the Hook has generally been a friend to nonprofits in the area, but understands the hurdles to overcome in print journalism.
"I know that lots of newspapers, even those in large media markets, are often struggling to maintain," he said.
"Anyone in the country who works in print journalism is trying to come up with innovative ways to keep it alive and keep it vibrant and going," Stuart said.
Details on the merger are still vague. The owners of the papers are working with staff at the Hook to see how they can be combined with C-VILLE Weekly.
"I think people are being flexible and trying to think about change not always being a negative thing, but it's hard," Stuart said.
Still, Stuart said she's proud of the past 12 years and proud of the impact the Hook has had on the community.
"I think there's hope that we're going to be able to keep doing journalism and keep writing stories that are meaningful," she said.
CBS19 News has learned that The Hook will end publication later this month. Employees of the weekly newspaper in Charlottesville were informed of the decision on Thursday.
An email sent to advertisers of the paper indicated the last publication will be on Sept. 26.
Employees at The Hook and its sister publication C-ville Weekly would not confirm the news.
The Hook was founded in 2002 by a group of employees who worked at C-ville Weekly. In 2011, the owners of both newspapers merged. At the time, it was reported The Hook and C-ville Weekly would continue to operate independently. In December 2012, Hawes Spencer, the editor and one of the founders of The Hook, stepped down.
There is no word on how many, if any, employees of The Hook could be out of a job.
The Hook sent out a statement, which reads in part:
"The Hook will publish its final issue on Thursday, September 26, the free weekly newspaper’s parent company announced today, and its editorial and business resources will be folded into a bigger, better version of C-VILLE Weekly.
"Two-and-a-half years after a parent company was formed to run the two competing weeklies, its owners have decided that the readers, advertisers, and staff would be best served by combining the resources of the two papers to create a more robust print and online hyperlocal media organization.
"The new version of C-VILLE will carry that legacy forward while building on its own 25-year history as an intelligent, progressive journalistic voice for news, arts, and culture in one of the country's great university towns. “The merger allows us to eliminate the duplication of efforts and reinvest in content delivery that we believe will serve the community better both in print and online,” said Bill Chapman, another CPG partner. “Several key members of The Hook’s team will remain to help make that happen.”
"Worth noting: Circulation will grow to an all-time high of 25,000, making C-VILLE Weekly the largest circulation newspaper in the Charlottesville market. C-VILLE's publication day to will move to Wednesday. As a result, the newspaper’s cultural and dining coverage comes out closer to the weekend and its news section can better cover city and county government meetings that happen early in the week."
We will provide more information as it becomes available.