Observer suspending publication

It is with mixed emotions that I announce we are suspending publication of the Observer. This is the last issue — for now.

When I planned the launch of the first Observer in Red Hook in March 2012, my goal was simple: to create a local newspaper that covered local issues from a local perspective. And very early on, I was lucky enough to meet Jean Patman, a newspaper industry veteran and fellow Red Hook resident who served as an advisor, mentor and volunteer editor throughout.

Between the two of us, and with the addition last year of Sarah Imboden as our incredibly hard-working and talented managing editor, we created what I have often referred to as The New York Times on the Hudson: high-quality journalism with deep and informed coverage that went far beyond what other local papers were delivering. We solved the circulation problems other papers encounter by making the paper free and delivering it directly to every mailbox in our coverage area, every two weeks. We expanded to Hyde Park with the same high hopes for that second edition and all the readers there.

As most are aware, the newspaper business is suffering. The newspapers that remain in print are shells of their former selves, with poor coverage, poor editing and declining circulation. Putting out high-quality journalism takes a serious effort, one that most remaining print publications, now owned by corporations not families, don’t appear interested in. Even the basics seem out of reach for them as they dismiss the importance of attending government meetings to report real local news. Most don’t even publish a basic crime blotter.

What they, and I, know is that it is expensive to do it right. And while I never expected to strike it rich with my newspapers, I had hoped that one day they would attract enough local business advertising to pay for themselves.

It was only because of the thousands of hours of volunteer time from me and Jean and the amazing efforts of our managing editor, Sarah, that the Observer survived this long. But as I’ve always said, our ad-supported newspaper relies on local businesses to survive. While many great local businesses and even non-profits — a lot owned or run by people whom I now consider friends — have supported our efforts and benefited from advertising in our pages, some very large local firms have not. And they know who they are.

For a community paper, these types of decisions can make or break a paper. And so we have reached the end for now, while we consider our options.

Let me be clear about one thing: the recent arrival in Red Hook of the Register-Star’s poorly thought-out publication does not pose serious competition for the news here — as most readers already know. But with the deep-pocketed corporation behind it ready to suffer steep losses, it will eat further into our advertising revenues by attracting those who believe such a publication can actually be considered credible.

I say to our loyal advertisers, the Observer would not have lasted this long without your strong backing. I am also grateful to the many dedicated reporters who filled our pages with their diligent coverage of events, board meetings and happenings that impact people’s lives and pocketbooks.

I’d like to publicly thank my friend Jean for her years of devotion to the papers, the real unsung hero of this venture. Every time I got a handshake or pat-on-the-back for our work, I knew that without her it would never have happened. Her editing and attention to detail made us what we are today.

I’d also like to thank my wife, Jennifer, who has made everything I do possible and meaningful. We are both looking forward to getting back 26 weekends and thousands of hours to spend together again.

And finally, my deepest thanks go to all of you, our readers, for your attention, interest and letters of support — and even disagreement — over the past 30 months. It has been a joy, a privilege, and even a lot of fun at times to make the Observer as relevant as it was.

We will meet again.

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