Sad news coming out of Rhode Island, where two daily papers are being merged into one. Ian Donnis of The Public’s Radio reports that The Call of Woonsocket and The Times of Pawtucket will become The Blackstone Valley Call & Times as of Nov. 1. “Our commitment to being a daily news provider for Northern Rhode Island has not changed,” according to a story Donnis cited that was on the front page of The Call. The article referenced “current business trends and increases in printing costs” as the reasons behind the merger.
In addition, The Call’s Sunday edition will be discontinued, to be replaced with a Saturday weekend edition in the merged paper. And get this: Donnis writes, “Between them, The Call and The Times have two news reporters, two sports reporters and a photographer.” Now that is small. The papers are owned by Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers, which acquired them in 2007.
As I’ve written here before, I was a Northeastern co-op student at The Call from 1976-’78, working full-time for about a year in three- and six-month stints. The way co-op works is that you’re replaced by another student when the semester ends and it’s time to return to school. I alternated with Karen Bordeleau, a future executive editor at The Providence Journal who’s now at Arizona State University.
The Call was excellent, a place where I learned a lot under great mentorship. It’s sad to see what’s become of the paper, as well as The Times, but Woonsocket and Pawtucket are economically depressed cities, and they no longer reach out into the more affluent suburbs to the extent that they did at one time. According to U.S. Census data, the median household income in Pawtucket is $56,427, and in Woonsocket it’s $48,822. Both of those figures are well below the state median of $74,489.
In the mid-’70s, The Call covered what we referred to as “Call Country,” which comprised more than a dozen communities in northern Rhode Island and southern Worcester County. I don’t know what the circulation area is today. Nor do I know how many paid subscribers the papers have because the Alliance for Audited Media has ended instant access to those numbers.
Donnis doesn’t mention any layoffs, and it’s hard to see how they could get much smaller. I just hope the Call & Times will be able to at least do as good a job of serving their communities as the two separate papers do now.
Note: Ian has posted a correction on the ownership of the two papers, and I’ve updated this post accordingly.