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Emmitsburg Dispatch prints last edition

James Rada
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(11/20) Due to a lack of continued support from local businesses, the community at large and the economic recession, The Dispatch is going out of print.
The Dispatch’s advertising income is down 50 percent, yet the costs to run the publication continue to escalate. Because the company is so small, there is nothing more to cut. The company has a staff of about 15 people, but only three are paid positions. Without a news editor, administrative person who also handles inside advertising sales and subscriptions, and a graphic designer/reporter, you have no newspaper.

“We are being forced to shut down our operations at this time,” said Publisher Raymond Buchheister. “We are at a crossroad; the advertising losses are so large that owners and investors are not able to make up the difference. It’s simple; we do not have enough income to cover our costs.”

Another thing that helped make the decision was the poor response to the publisher’s editorial that ran in the Oct. 16 issue.

“We got the impression that our news service is not appreciated by the majority,” Buchheister said.

The editorial called for a response and provided six ways readers could help their hometown newspaper. Five of the six did not require someone to write a check. About 10 people responded with letters, and a total of six people were willing to pay for the publication they receive. The monetary support totaled $389.80, which will be sent back to these contributors.

The Dispatch received no response from town governments, businesses or a significant number of individuals. Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover was the only government official to respond with a phone call. He offered some suggestions and said he supported the publication.

“The people have spoken,” Buchheister said, “What are we to think about this response to a newspaper that is received in 15,000 local homes and businesses?”
The company has primarily been a service to the community and has made no profit, but rather has suffered losses, especially the last three years. The majority of the newspaper’s costs are payroll, printing and postage. The costs for printing and postage have increased dramatically over this time. The Dispatch had been working to change the company to not-for-profit, which would have significantly reduced the postage costs and brought the operating budget into the black, but the economic recession has overwhelmed these efforts.

Buchheister said two things make this decision especially hard: having to lay off employees and his concern that the community will not be informed of important issues.

“Having to lay off three paid employees, especially at this time of year is difficult,” Buchheister said. “These employees have been loyal and have become family to us. Their work has given the community its local newspaper. I also have a concern that the local community will no longer have a real news service. A newspaper requires trained reporters that are working for the people to deliver factual information about government, businesses, and institutions, which are the large elements that shape and form small communities. Without a watchdog, the community isn’t safe. Without a real newspaper dedicated to serving truth, the people have lost their voice. That is my greatest concern, for I feel I have failed in my efforts to help provide this service to which everyone has the right.”

Buchheister attributes the last three years of the publication’s existence to 10 local business owners who have provided capital for the company in 2006.

“These business owners understand the importance of what a newspaper means to the community,” Buchheister said. “They have contributed their time in meetings and have contributed monetarily so that the community could have this news service. They are the ones that have made this possible. Without them the publication would not have stayed in print as long as it has.”

The Dispatch is not the only newspaper that has been hit by the sagging economy. The Frederick News-Post laid off 16 employees on Nov. 3 or about 7 percent of their total workforce. The company attributed the cuts to a sour economy, the stockmarket crash and banks slowing lending. The Gazette newspapers, owned by the Washington Post Company, eliminated 23 positions, about 14 percent of its workforce earlier this year. The company said falling ad revenue and rising newsprint prices contributed to the employee terminations.

Raymond and Jennifer Buchheister have owned and operated The Dispatch Newspapers for the past six years. The Emmitsburg Dispatch printed its first edition on June 2002. Its predecessor was The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, which Bo and Jean Cadle owned and operated for eight years. The Buchheisters grew the paper from a monthly with a circulation of 3,000 to a twice-a-month paper distributed to 9,000 residents and businesses. The Buchheisters started The Thurmont Dispatch on August 4, 2005 and distributed it twice a month to 6,000 people.

The Emmitsburg Dispatch, Inc. and The Dispatch Newspapers, LLC was the first local modern newspaper company in Emmitsburg to incorporate full color, employ degreed journalists, conform to the style standards of newspaper journalism and graphic design and to be accepted as members into the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association. Along the way, the newspapers also won awards for their excellence in writing.

The Dispatch Newspapers, LLC will continue to remain a business and retain trademark rights to any newspapers it published. There are no plans to resume printing the papers at this time, unless something dramatic happens or a financial backer comes forward. The owners will consider selling the company. The Dispatch offices will remain open at 9 East Main Street in Emmitsburg part time through December to complete business transactions until the doors close on Dec. 31.

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