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Toledo Free Press closes after 10 years

Publisher blames business conditions, ‘legal wrangling’

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    Toledo Free Press employees Christie Materni, left, and James A. Molnar hang up a good-bye sign in the window of the newspaper’s offices.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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    Pounds

    THE BLADE
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Toledo Free Press employees Christie Materni, left, and James A. Molnar hang up a good-bye sign in the window of the newspaper’s offices.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Enlarge | Buy This Image

After 10 years and more than 500 issues, the Toledo Free Press will soon close its doors, its publisher said Monday in an online statement.

“We fought long and hard to make sure this day would never come, but it’s with a heavy heart that I must announce Toledo Free Press is closing,” he wrote in the statement, posted at 3 p.m. Monday.

The statement, posted to the paper’s website and social media accounts, thanked staffers, readers, and advertisers for their support. Sunday’s print issue was the paper’s last, although employees will continue to post online and social media content for a few weeks.

Publisher Tom Pounds cited “legal wrangling” and business conditions as reasons for the closing.

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Pounds

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“Closing hurts, but even more painful would be to have never tried,” the statement continued. “This newspaper has been a dream. We have enjoyed offering area readers an alternate voice and relished the challenge of changing the status quo of news reporting in Toledo. By adding to the conversation, we did what we set out to do, and I’m proud of the work we've done.”

Editor-in-Chief Sarah Ottney expressed sorrow at the paper’s closing.

“I lost my job today and people lost their jobs today, but more importantly the city lost a voice,” she said. “Every media outlet is important in some way.”

She said print, television, and radio journalism all contribute to a collective voice and serve as watchdogs for the city.

“The biggest thing is the loss of that voice,” she said. “I think the Free Press filled a niche that wasn’t here before [and] told stories that hadn’t been told before.”

The Free Press employed nine full-time staff members, Ms. Ottney said, as well as several freelancers and newspaper carriers. She said stories that are already assigned and under way will be completed and posted online, but no new stories will be assigned.

Ms. Ottney, who has worked at the Free Press for more than four years, said the news of its closing “hasn’t sunk in yet.” She said staffers were waiting for the final announcement from Mr. Pounds, and that some people found out on Monday. She plans to post a column soon to more fully express herself.

“I’m very proud of what the Free Press has done,” she said. “I’m proud we lasted 10 years.”

In addition to his online statement, Mr. Pounds took to local television to mark the paper’s end.

“When we’re out of the picture it changes, no matter how slight it will be, it changes the picture,” he said while on WNWO-TV, Channel 24. “Competition should be a good thing. It should make us better. In this situation, it wasn’t taken so well.”

Mr. Pounds also spoke with WTOL-TV, Channel 11. Mr. Pounds did not respond to calls on Monday afternoon from The Blade for comment.

When a Blade reporter went to his office about 11 a.m. Monday, Mr. Pounds said it was not true that the Free Press’ advertising representatives had been told not to accept new orders because the paper had published its last edition on Sunday.

In the television interviews, Mr. Pounds did not go into detail regarding current legal battles, but described the paper’s financial situation as “living day-to-day,” while speaking on WTOL.

Home-improvement chain Menard Inc. filed a suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court last week, accusing the weekly newspaper of failing to inform the company of declining circulation or to adjust its billing for advertising services.

The complaint alleges the Free Press “intended to mislead” Menard because it “was paid by the number of print advertisements it circulated.”

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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