UPDATED: Newhouse News Service to Close

By: Dave Astor

Newhouse News Service (NNS), the supplemental wire founded in 1961, will close after the election on Nov. 7.

But the NNS-owned Religion News Service will continue operating in much the same way under NNS parent Advance Publications, RNS Editor Kevin Eckstrom told E&P Tuesday.

NNS — whose clients include non-Newhouse papers, too — offers content such as stories, photos, and columns. It’s also the Washington bureau of Advance, whose 26 daily newspapers include The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J; The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.; The Plain Dealer in Cleveland; the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance; and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

“As the newspapers were preparing their budgets for 2009, they simply felt they couldn’t afford to pay for a central Washington bureau any more,” David Starr, Newhouse Newspapers’ senior editor, told E&P, adding that the papers preferred to use that money for local coverage.

His reaction to the impending closing? “It’s very sad — not only for these particular papers and these particular people, but for journalism as a whole,” said Starr. Unfortunately, he added, closings and layoffs are a “pattern” these days in the newspaper world.

NNS has 24 staffers, including 11 reporters who write for specific newspapers. Starr said he hopes the reporters can join the staffs of those papers, and that other NNS employees can find work as well. “We will do all we can to help,” he added.

Starr said the NNS office space might end up being subleased.

RNS will have to find a new office in Washington, said Eckstrom, but noted that its staffing and content will remain the same. “There’ll be no change in the quantity and quality of our product,” he stressed, adding that since “we primarily exist on our subscribers,” that revenue stream will still be there.

About 175 media outlets (including 75 or so newspapers) subscribe to RNS, which launched in 1934 and was purchased by NNS in 1994. RNS content is marketed by Universal Press Syndicate.

The closing of NNS “is an overwhelmingly sad day for us, our friends who work there, and the extended Newhouse family,” said Eckstrom. “At the same time, we’re grateful for the vote of confidence from Advance and Newhouse.”

Deborah Howell, the NNS editor/Washington bureau chief for 15 years before becoming The Washington Post’s ombud in 2005, said of the NNS closing: “I think it’s very sad. I have some great friends there. It’s such a terrible newspaper climate.”

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