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CHAMPAIGN — The last edition of the award-winning LeRoy Farmer City Press will be published Friday, March 3.
“It is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement,” said John Reed, publisher of the Press and CEO of parent company News-Gazette Media. “The LeRoy Farmer City Press has been a special project for us over the last six-plus years, born out of a plea from community members who yearned for quality local journalism. It has truly been a labor of love.”
The Press began publishing in LeRoy in 2010 upon the closure of the LeRoy Journal, and expanded into Farmer City in 2011 after the town lost its Journal.
Despite an increase in the depth of community coverage, declining advertising and subscription revenue combined with increasing delivery costs have made continued publication an unprofitable prospect, Reed said.
“I feel very good about what we did with respect to the quality of our journalism, and very much appreciate the loyal readers and advertisers who supported us over the years,” Reed said. “Editor Jerry Nowicki has done an outstanding job since he joined us in 2013, culminating with the LeRoy Farmer City Press being named the best newspaper of its size in the state at last year’s Illinois Press Association annual convention.”
The publication was launched under the guidance of former News-Gazette Community Newspapers General Manager Tim Evans, and the paper’s first editor was Sarah Jean Bresnahan.
Handling the advertising sales for much of the paper’s life was Farmer City resident Jenny Williams, along with Evans.
From the very first issue, LeRoy photographer Becky LaMont provided eye-catching sports photography, which helped lend credibility to the Press as a professional-looking, community-driven newspaper.
Freelance reporter Jeff Zogg was also a mainstay at the newspaper for much of its life.
Evans, who hired LaMont and Zogg, led the way for the paper in its early days, along with Bresnahan. She was succeeded as editor by Micky Deming, who led the Press for two years beginning in 2011. Danya Long succeeded Deming, spending nine months as editor before Nowicki was brought aboard in October 2013.
He expanded local news coverage into the village of Downs and took on several issues of import to the community while making it a goal to continue to highlight the ongoing successes of the local school districts and the students in them.
Last June, the Press was awarded the David B. Kramer Memorial Trophy for the best small weekly newspaper in the state of Illinois. It also took home first-place awards for general excellence and community service.
Nowicki credited the staff of photographers and freelance writers for helping the Press earn the honors.
“In my time, the Press has covered three state championships, a governor’s visit, countless council meetings and innumerable student successes,” Nowicki said. “My hope is we’ve given the community several keepsakes to hold onto forever.”
Despite the community focus, the Press never hesitated to hold local government accountable, toeing the line between cheerleader and watchdog.
“As editor, I stood by a simple philosophy that if you show you have a heart for your communities, you gain the necessary voice to publicize when changes are needed,” Nowicki said. “Everybody who has ever submitted a photo, a letter to the editor, a column or any other contribution has helped in the endeavor of making the Press a community-focused newspaper.”
Subscribers and advertisers will be contacted directly in the coming days about the end of publication, and any specific questions should be directed to the News-Gazette Media customer care center at (217) 351-5252.
Despite the cease in publication of the Press, News-Gazette Media will continue to operate weekly editions in nearby communities, including The Mahomet Citizen, The Piatt County Journal-Republican in Monticello and The Ford County Record in Paxton.