Thursday, June 05, 2014

Crusading, award-winning weekly closes after less than 3½ years when grocery chain cuts weekly ads

The Yancey County News, an award-winning, crusading weekly newspaper in western North Carolina, shut down operations last week after less than four years of service when it lost its main source of advertising, Al Cross reports for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog.

Jonathan and Susan Austin in Burnsville, N.C.
(Photo: Bill Sanders, Asheville Citizen-Times)
"The weekly newspaper never exceeded a regular circulation of 1,000 but punched above its weight from the get-go, reporting in its first edition about a state investigation of vote-fraud allegations," Cross writes. "Then it analyzed state investigators' records to report that the county had an unusually high number of absentee ballots, many of which were witnessed by employees of the county sheriff’s department and cast by criminal defendants, some of whose charges were then dropped."

"The paper also revealed that the mountain county's chief deputy, the arresting officer in several cases in which the suspects immediately voted and were given leniency, was also pawning county-owned guns for personal gain," Cross writes. "He has resigned and pleaded guilty to failing to discharge his duties."

In just two years and five months of operation, publishers Jonathan and Susan Austin won the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism, the E.W. Scripps Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment, and the Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity from the institute, based at the University of Kentucky. (Read more) The paper's Facebook page is here.

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