New owners to shut down King County Journal

by GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

The King County Journal newspaper, a daily covering Seattle's south and east suburbs, will cease publication in January as its new owner focuses on expanding the role of its non-daily community papers in the region.

Don Kendall, general manager of King County Publications Ltd., delivered the news at a staff meeting Thursday on behalf of Victoria, British Columbia-based Black Press Ltd., which took over the Journal from former publisher Peter Horvitz one month ago.

About 40 employees will be laid off and offered severance packages. Ten have taken jobs with the non-daily Reporter newspapers in suburban Seattle which Black Press bought along with the Journal. Another took a job in the marketing department.

"Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a strategy that will save the newspaper," Kendall said. "In the short time that Black Press has owned the KCJ, advertising revenues and circulation have continued to decline."

The Journal's final issue will be published Jan. 21, Kendall said.

Six of the nine Reporter newspapers will switch from twice monthly to twice weekly publication at that time, said Journal business editor Clayton Park, a nine-year veteran of the paper who plans to look for work elsewhere. He said the only surprise in Thursday's announcement was that the Journal will continue to publish for so long.

"People expected it," Park said of the planned closure. "Rumors had been running rampant. Most of us were preparing for the worst."

The Journal, based in Kent just south of Seattle, is the region's fifth-largest daily, with a weekday circulation of roughly 39,000. That's down from 47,000 in 2003 when the paper was created through a merger of the daily Eastside Journal and South County Journal papers, a venture based on the previous daily, the Journal-American.

The Reporter newspapers in Auburn, Bellevue, Covington/Maple Valley, Kent, Redmond and Renton will switch from twice monthly to twice weekly publication, on Wednesday and Saturday, on Jan. 24, according to a story for the Journal's Friday editions. The Bothell/Kenmore Reporter will switch from twice monthly to once-a-week publication, and the Mercer Island Reporter and Snoqualmie Valley Record papers will continue to be published once a week.

Those papers, with a combined circulation of 235,000, are currently delivered by mail. Black Press plans to switch to carrier delivery and to hone the papers' focus on local news and sports.

Black Press's Sound Publishing group also publishes community newspapers on Washington's Kitsap Peninsula, Whidbey Island, San Juan Islands, Vashon-Maury Island and in Federal Way, about 30 miles south of Seattle.

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