By: Joe Strupp
Although today marks the last scheduled edition of the tiny Lordsburg (N.M.) Liberal, which touts itself as the oldest weekly in the state at 120 years of age, a new push to save the name has emerged.
When word came out last week that the 1,850 circulation weekly would close, locals reacted with disappointment and opposition. As a news source that stretches back through generations, there was no shortage of readers who could claim they “grew up with the Liberal in my house.”
“The reaction has been incredible,” said Lorenzo Alba, the paper’s publisher, who was forced to close at the direction of MediaNews Group, which owns the weekly paper. “People have been calling and trying to find out what is happening.”
Corporate officials have said that economic pressures, which have dropped the Liberal’s circulation from about 2,300 four years ago, are to blame. “We decided to close our paper down because the paper wasn’t making any money,” said MediaNews CFO Ron Mayo.
Also among the causes is the competing Hidalgo County Herald, an 1,800-circulation paper that has been eating in to the Liberal’s readership since it launched in 2000. “People started buying both papers and that was the biggest contributor,” Alba said.
But as the Liberal prepares to publish its last edition today, a new movement is afoot to save the weekly. Several longtime residents, including the publisher of the Herald, propose to keep the Liberal going by transferring its name to the Herald.
Jason Watkins, a native of the area who owned the Liberal from 2000 to 2002, has proposed that MediaNews simply allow the Herald to change its name to the Lordsburg Liberal, thus allowing the historic paper to remain. He says when he sold the paper to MediaNews in 2002, “they offered me every assurance that they would keep it in publication.”
Watkins, who has relocated to San Diego but remains in touch with local news people, says he has gotten support from several Lordsburg residents, including Brenda Greene, Herald publisher and a former Liberal staffer. “If it is money they want, we will raise it to make it happen,” Watkins said. “The problem is that the name, Lordsburg Liberal, will just disappear. It has been around since 1887.”
Greene, who launched the Herald in 2000, says she would be glad to rename the paper as the Liberal. “It would be nice for it to remain in our community, it is an historical part of our community,” she said. “There is a sentimental value to the community.”
MediaNews Group’s Mayo said he was unaware of the proposal, but planned to look into it. MediaNews Group CEO William Dean Singleton has not retuned calls seeking comment on the proposal. Watkins said he has been trying to contact corporate executives for the past week, but with no luck.
David McClain, regional director of the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, which operates the Liberal and other area newspapers for MediaNews Group, also did not return calls seeking comment.
Watkins said he believes the request can be agreed to if he can meet with MediaNews officials. “I don’t plan on giving up,” he said. “I am not going to let it die.”