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As one California newspaper closes, another warns it will stop publishing

Numerous elements have made today’s journalism landscape a particularly challenging one for the country’s oldest broadcast institution: The local newspaper.

On Sunday, the Martinez News-Gazette announced it had published its final printed edition, ending more than 160 years of printing and distributing local news to the East Bay community that sits about a half-hour outside of San Francisco.

Rick Jones, the editor of the paper, hasn’t said whether the outlet will continue publishing online.

Word of the News-Gazette’s print demise comes as California’s oldest weekly newspaper, the Downieville Mountain Messenger, looks to close up shop at the beginning of the year.

Don Russell, the newspaper’s publisher and editor, told the Los Angeles Times he’s been unsuccessful at finding a buyer for the newspaper that Mark Twain once wrote for. The end of the paper’s publication comes at the same time as Russell’s retirement.

The Mountain Messenger, which covers Sierra County north of Sacramento, had a circulation of around 2,400 households, the Times reported.

For the last two decades, newspapers have struggled to maintain a printed edition as consumer reading habits shifted first to websites, then mobile editions.

Local print publishers were slow to harness the power of the Internet as a distribution method, focusing instead on legacy printed advertisements, classified and real estate listings. But upstart ad platforms from Facebook, Google and Craigslist made it easier — and, in most cases, cheaper — for ordinary people and small businesses to buy targeted advertisements compared to rates found in newspapers.

Newspapers tried to overcome the loss by stripping newspapers of superfluous content like puzzles, crosswords and comics; increasing their use of national wire content; reducing print days and eliminating staff.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).