TARBORO – The Daily Southerner ended its 125-year run Friday, closing after publication of the day’s edition.
Little was being said by the newspaper or its corporate parent, Montgomery, Ala.-based CNHI. A seven-paragraph story on page 1 of Friday’s edition announced the closure and said the newspaper had been losing money.
“We tried every way we could to keep the paper going, including talking to potential buyers. It eventually came down to the last, reluctant option of ceasing publication,” the story quoted Steve McPhaul, a CNHI executive vice president and chief operating officer, as saying.
Messages seeking comment left for McPhaul at his office went unreturned Friday.
Sandy Selvy, a CNHI publisher from Albemarle, was working Friday at the Southerner. She also declined to comment.
“We’re making no more statements than what we put in our article,” she said.
Other calls to the newspaper’s telephone number rang unanswered Friday morning. The doors to its office at 504 W. Wilson St. were locked, and a single sheet of paper reading “CLOSED” hung from one of them.
The newspaper had been taking steps many other print outlets have used to strengthen its position. Staff numbers had been reduced over the years. In 2011, the Southerner began printing at Cooke Communications North Carolina’s plant in Greenville.
Cooke is the corporate parent of the Rocky Mount Telegram.
That year the newspaper also discontinued its Tuesday edition, leaving it with a four-day publication schedule.
The 2012 edition of the Editor & Publisher Data Book, an index of the newspaper industry, listed the Southerner’s circulation as 2,550.
The Telegram plans to step up its coverage of Tarboro and the surrounding area for its readers in Edgecombe County, according to John Cooke, publisher and president of Cooke Communications.
“Tarboro’s residents need to know what’s happening from an independent, trustworthy source,” Cooke said. “The town deserves a newspaper, a place where its residents can read their news and voice their opinions.
“While the Rocky Mount Telegram is based nearby and currently delivers to a few hundred Tarboro addresses, we plan to increase our Tarboro and Edgecombe County coverage in the coming days. Next Wednesday, a special Tarboro edition of the Telegram will debut exclusively for Tarboro’s citizens to fill the void of The Daily Southerner’s closing.”
The Southerner’s end rippled through several aspects of the community, an early afternoon spot check of people in downtown Tarboro found.
Thomas Brandon was climbing the steps of the post office at Main and Saint John streets to mail a package when he was told of the closure.
A town resident and Southerner subscriber since 1968, he said he was a regular reader of its front page news stories, marriage announcements and obituaries. When younger, he would read stories about his son as a prep football player and his daughter in dance school.
“Newspapers are important to me ... definitely,” he said. “It’s going to seem right strange” without the Southerner’s presence.