Friday, August 8, 2008

Lee Enterprises shuts down fifth Idaho newspaper

Wood River Journal sold previously


Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, will shut down the 4,000-circulation South Idaho Press in Burley, the second-largest daily newspaper in its Idaho holdings, on Aug. 17.

Lee will also shutter two more weeklies in its stable, the 1,400-circulation Gooding County Leader in Gooding and the 1,200-circulation Northside News in Jerome, on Thursday, Aug. 14.

The closures were announced in the Twin Falls Times News, another Lee paper.

In April, Lee also closed both the Lincoln County Journal in Shoshone and the Minidoka County News in Rupert, and disposed of the Wood River Journal in Hailey. The Post Company of Idaho Falls bought the Journal.

Times News publisher Brad Hurd said the affected newspapers had not been financially viable.

Not all U.S. newspapers, particularly weeklies, are experiencing similar difficulties.

For example, Wood River Valley's Idaho Mountain Express and Guide grew from a weekly to be published twice weekly in recent years and has remained in continuous local ownership since 1974. The company has also expanded its magazine operations.

During peak season in the Sun Valley area, the newspaper circulates a total of 24,000 copies a week at more than 200 locations in the valley as well as in Twin Falls, Shoshone, Fairfield and Carey. It has subscribers in all 50 states. Its Web site alone attracts 41,000 unique visitors a month.

The South Idaho Press will be folded into the daily Times News, Lee's Idaho flagship. A special edition of the Times News will contain news and advertising targeted at the Burley-Rupert area.

Though Lee will maintain staffers for news, advertising and circulation in Burley, 14 employees will lose their jobs, Hurd said.

The South Idaho Press was the successor to the Burley Bulletin, established in 1904.

Lee is a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

It is the fourth largest newspaper company in the country with 50 daily newspapers, a joint interest in four others and more than 300 weeklies and specialty publications.

Lee has owned the Times News and the five weeklies since 2004.

Lee's stock has struggled in the last year. It has dropped from a high of $20.60 per share and this week was hovering around the $3 mark.

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