I’ve been a bit slow to get this reported, but on April 2nd, Elaine Owen, the editor of the Fannin Sentinel, circulated an email announcing that in the face of financial reality, she was going to have to suspend publication. Elaine has given me permission to post it.
“We cannot force a community to support a newspaper. Businesses cannot be forced to place ads. Readers cannot be made to subscribe or pick up a paper at the yellow boxes all over the county. Without that support, a newspaper doesn’t stand a chance.”
Today, Jim and I decided that we would temporarily suspend publication of the Fannin Sentinel. Our postal permit allows us to do that with no penalty–and we can resume publication with no penalty.
This was not an easy decision as we love to bring news to the community. We are also responsible for paychecks for employees, who we treasure. PLEASE READ THE FIRST SENTENCE AGAIN. While we have subscribers (and just today I picked up 3 new subscriptions from our mailbox), since the beginning of the year, we have had few advertisers. Tracking our sales since 2012, it was apparent that this year was different–and this small business could not continue with less sales revenue than payroll expense. Another problem is that advertisers are taking longer to pay…and some don’t want to pay…
Thus the decision to suspend publication–with a sincere hope that we can come back stronger in a few weeks.
If you are a subscriber, please know that your subscription will be extended…if you are an advertiser, know that we need your ads and payment to survive.
We are not going anywhere but will support the “shelter in place” issued by Gov. Kemp yesterday.
If you have me on your “news” list, please continue to send me news. It will not be next week, but maybe the following week, or the next…and the Fannin Sentinel will be back in production. (Thank you!)
Please be safe and know that WE CARE.
Elaine OwenEditorFannin Sentinel”
It’s good for a community to have a newspaper. But it’s better for a community to have two newspapers. At one time, we had three newspapers. The third tried to make a name for itself by looking for corruption in the county government, and, sure enough, they found some. But it didn’t survive for reasons more related to the ownership and business side of the newspaper than to anything related to reporting.
The Sentinel, on the other hand, has been here for going on ten years, at least eight. I don’t know Elaine other than to nod at her, and exchange the occasional email. But I believe she is a native Ohioan, and a lifelong Republican who is networked at the highest levels of the Ohio Republican Party. Unfortunately, her own Republican principles lead her to be critical of Trump, and that has not made her popular locally. But you have to admire her integrity.
For those who may not know, there has always been an interchange between Ohio and Fannin County, because a lot of the local people went there to take jobs in the tire industry, especially in Akron. The activities of the infamous baby selling doc in Copperhill were uncovered, I believe, because former Probate Judge Linda Davis began wondering about all the local birth certificates listing Akron as the place of residence.
Many people are not aware that the News Observer is, in effect, supported with local tax dollars. This is because it is the “newspaper of record” in Fannin County, which means that all legal notices must be placed there by the county government. And, like every other newspaper of record in Georgia, they charge more for these ads than other ads – a lot more. The newspaper of record is chosen by the Sheriff, the Clerk of Courts, and the Probate Judge. I cannot remember what figure was quoted to me for what this is worth to the News Observer, but I do remember it was an eye-popping amount.
Presumably, this is what it is that allows the News Observer to pursue an editorial policy that many in our community view as mean-spirited, resentful, ignorant, and willfully hostile to their interests. This includes many members of the downtown business community who refuse to advertise or subscribe – or even read – the News Observer.
I’m not familiar with the financial situation of the Sentinel, but I have heard that there are some substantial uncollected debts from political ads. And Elaine may have been too generous in making her content available for free on the Internet.
The News Observer has a fierce pay wall. Again, it’s admirable community service, but I have no doubt it has been costly financially.
Elaine also kept the single issue cost at 50 cents when the News Observer raised theirs to 75 cents.
If this community wants to save this newspaper, we are going to have to reach out to Elaine and find a way to help.
Elaine’s email is listed as email@example.com
The phone numbers are listed as:
Office: 706-258-3406 or 706-632-6564
Subscription information is:
The Fannin Sentinel (USPS # 024-582) is published weekly each Thursday by Fannin Sentinel at P.O. Box 799, Blue Ridge, GA 30513. Subscriptions are $15 for 1 year in Fannin County; $45 out of area. Single copy rate is 50¢. Periodical postage is paid at Blue Ridge, GA. To subscribe: call 706-258-3406
It would probably be best at this point to contact Elaine personally about advertising.