Two weekly newspapers in Frederick County have suspended publication due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in lost community news content and advertising revenue.
The Brunswick Citizen and the Middletown Valley Citizen published their final editions Tuesday.
Julie Maynard, editor and publisher of the Brunswick Citizen, said in an email the decision to suspend publication of both newspapers was not an easy decision to make, but under the circumstances, she felt this was the right thing to do.
“We can’t remember ever doing fewer than 16 pages, even when blizzards or power outages complicated things,” Maynard said. “But with no meetings to cover, no events to promote, no sports, very few photographs, and dwindling advertising, we think it’s time to do our part and stay home.”
Maynard hopes to resume publication in the future, when schools reopen.
“Maryland schools are going to err on the side of caution,” Maynard said. “When the schools open again, we can be pretty sure that businesses will reopen and events and meetings will be scheduled again.”
Typically, the Citizen Newspapers average about 24 pages per week. “Twenty pages is the norm for Brunswick, with 24 the goal when advertising allows,” Maynard said.
Originally, Maynard considered making last week’s editions the final ones before suspending operations, but decided to go with one more edition before shutting down.
Maynard, whose father, the late J. Peter Maynard, founded the Brunswick Citizen in January 1974, agreed newspapers are an essential service. As such, exemptions from current travel restrictions are granted to newspaper employees.
“But compared to food, pharmaceutical, construction and transportation services, a small weekly paper like this one feels nearly frivolous,” Maynard said.
Brunswick Mayor Jeff Snoots said in an email that weekly newspapers provide a good service to local communities, but he understands the current situation Maynard is facing.
“The Brunswick Citizen newspaper is a tradition in the city” Snoots said. “Many residents look forward to the weekly newspaper. It’s our hometown newspaper.”
This is the first time since both newspapers were founded there has been this sort of interruption in publication. Typically, they don’t publish for one week in the summer, to allow their staffs to take vacation.
Both publications take a holiday break, skipping one or two editions.
“You know, Middletown had a long history of a local newspaper going back to The Valley Register days beginning well over 100 years ago,” Middletown Burgess John Miller said. “The Citizen continued the tradition and provided an outlet for local news, offered many positive features of individuals and groups and shared happenings around the valley while also keeping us informed about local governmental issues.”
Snoots and Miller agree many of their residents looked forward to the paper. They are the weekly paper of record for their respective communities.
“It’s up close and personal news that our citizens enjoy reading,” Snoots said. “It features many home town articles, such as local government information, local school news, our city’s organizations’ news.”
Julie Maynard and her husband, Scott Edie, began the Middletown Valley Citizen in 1990, making it a sister publication of the Brunswick Citizen. With The Valley Register eventually ending publication, Maynard’s and Edie’s venture filled a void in the Middletown Valley community.
“I always appreciated the personal touch the Citizen gave to Middletown and the other communities it served,” Miller said. “... we always had a personal connection to the Citizen and its reporters.”
Local editorial content and photos for both publications was submitted by correspondents, paid according to the length of each story. Both offices maintained a one- or two-person staff to handle telephone calls, circulation and advertising.
Snoots and Miller sense the loss of the Citizen throughout their communities.
“It’s a loss that many of our residents will miss every week,” Snoots said.
Miller said he liked the personal flavor of how the local news was reported.
“Local papers often provide that personal flavor in reporting the news,” he said. “Local papers for smaller towns also provide some respite from the more dire news that we hear and read about elsewhere. We loved the Citizen and really are sad for it to possibly no longer be a part of our lives.”
Maynard remains optimistic for the future of the Citizen, but said this pandemic needs to be taken very seriously.
“We must all do what we can to keep our part of the world safe,” she said.