Buffalo Journalist Laments Closure of Western New York Community Newspapers

Some 200 full-time and part-time employees are affected.

This media bankruptcy tale has nothing to do with the prurient outing of a Silicon Valley billionaire or the prurient publication of a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Rather, it is connected to the actions of a large metropolitan daily newspaper.

As Buffalo Law Reporter editor Michael Petro explains, Community Papers of WNY, the chain where he once worked, recently emerged from a stay of action declared in connection with a bankruptcy filed last December. The original filing came less than two years after the chain and its flagship, The Hamburg Sun, was purchased from Metro Group Inc.

As the largest creditor in this dispute, the Buffalo News is now seeking to collect some of the $1.7 million it is owed. The newspaper pounced on the lifting of the stay July 18 and, as a result, Community Papers of WNY CEO James Austin was alerting troops a week later that the company has been forced to shut down. From Petro’s piece:

These newspapers represented more than just the place I worked prior to joining the Buffalo Law Journal. They were an integral part of the community in places without another weekly and became a source of information and news in such towns as Lancaster, Cheektowaga, Clarence, West Seneca, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Kenmore, Lockport and South and North Buffalo, where the company published other Sun and Source newspapers. It also published a number of Pennysavers and other publications.

The Sun in Hamburg covered not only the town and village but the Towns of Eden, Evans, Brant and North Collins and the villages of Angola, Farnham and Blasdell. The Erie County Independent started in 1875 and became The Hamburg Sun in 1945 when Dick Allen, a former employee of the Independent, bought the newspaper. H&K Publications owned the Hamburg Sun, as well as the Springville Journal and Gowanda News, until it sold the papers to Metro Group Inc. in 2006. This year, the Springville Journal was celebrating its 150th year of publication.

Some 200 full-time and part-time employees are affected. As Petro notes, there is hope that some of the affected papers will be re-opened under new ownership down the line.