Calistoga Tribune will cease publication; Sun of Yountville for sale | Local News


Updated at 5:25 p.m. Thursday — The Calistoga Tribune, the only remaining newspaper that solely serves Calistoga, announced Thursday that it will cease publication in the coming months. And the Yountville Sun, which also reported on the impending departure, announced on its front page that it was on sale.

Calistoga Tribune editors Pat Hampton, 72, and Ramona Asmus, 67, said the weekly would likely cease publication by the end of September. Hampton said in a Thursday interview that the paper’s contracts with the city of Calistoga may delay the end of publication until later this year, but she and Asmus plan to stop publishing by September 30.

“We had a great run, even compared to the big papers,” Hampton said. “We covered the murders and we covered the fires obviously, both in town and out of town. Everything that happens in a big city happens here. It’s not just about pie-making contests.

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The Independent Tribune was launched in 2002 by Hampton and Asmus. The Weekly Calistogan, owned by Lee Enterprises, parent company of the Napa Valley Register, ceased publication at the end of March.

Hampton said the Tribune currently has nearly 1,000 subscribers. Calistoga has a population of approximately 5,000 people, according to the 2020 census.

Hampton said she decided to start the Tribune with Asmus because the people of Calistoga asked her to — she was repeatedly approached for this reason while shopping at the Cal Mart grocery store, he said. she stated. Hampton previously worked as an editor for the Calistogan for 10 years, and before that he worked at the St. Helena Star, also owned by Lee Enterprises.

“I was fired and two or three years later a group of people came to me and said, ‘They took our newspaper and we haven’t heard from them; why don’t you start a new one? Said Hampton. “To which I said, ‘You are crazy.’ But then 9/11 happened and I realized I wasn’t doing journalism, which was my first passion.

Hampton also noted that during the time she left journalism, Calistoga residents lost interest in local politics. This is another reason why she decided to launch the Tribune, she said.

“Without information about what was going on in the city, people were really indifferent to politics and the performance of local government,” Hampton said. “The city council was renaming itself because no one was running for office and no one knew there was a position to run for.”

Throughout its life, the Tribune focused primarily on its print edition. Hampton noted that it would have been cheaper to get a product online – the newspaper’s biggest operating expenses are the printing bill, salaries and benefits, she said – but they decided to continue to focus on printing because it was traditional and people in Calistoga wanted printing paper.

To keep the diary going over the years, Hampton said, she and Asmus had to withdraw from their retirement savings. She also took out a loan from her brother at some point when printing costs got too high.

Hampton added that she and Asmus decided to close the newspaper due to a combination of financial factors and burnout.

Hampton said she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about seven years ago and the disease was starting to affect her more.

She said if she had more time, she would seek to form a non-profit organization to run the newspaper and take over the Yountville Sun.

“That way we could take money to cover all the expenses that advertising and subscriptions don’t cover,” Hampton said. “Then we could start paying decent wages.”

Anne Ward Ernst, editor of the Calistogan from 2013 to 2018 and freelance writer for the Tribune, said a group of community members known as Friends of the Tribune are currently trying to figure out if they can save the log. If not, she says, they will explore the possibility of creating a new local information source for Calistoga.

“One thing I’m pushing for is a stronger digital presence,” Ernst said. “The Tribune only has the paper. These days you have to have a mobile app, a fully digital website. There is simply no way to maintain a journal without it.

Cynthia Sweeney, who was editor of the Calistogan when it went out of print in March, said in an email that she was comforted at the time that the Tribune continued to serve Calistoga. She added, however, that newspapers do not survive without community support.

Sweeney noted that while the perception of Calistoga may be that it’s an isolated tourist town where nothing happens, the town has been at the forefront in terms of taking action regarding fire mitigation from forest, the fight against climate change and the management of issues related to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

“The fallout from the absence of a municipal newspaper would be devastating on many fronts,” Sweeney wrote. “Knowing the community and the call to action they are capable of, I am confident that residents and businesses will rally around the Tribune and keep it going.”

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning said the Tribune has done the community a great service. Losing that local touch, he said, will be a big disappointment, and the shutdown will mean some Calistoga residents will turn to Nextdoor and other social media sites as their only sources of local news.

“I personally and also from the city want to thank Pat Hampton and Ramona for their decades of service to our community and for all that they have done,” he said. “But we’re glad they’re staying and continuing as part of the community.”

Sean Scully, former editor of the Napa Valley Register and the Weekly Calistogan, said that while the Register and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat occasionally cover Calistoga, neither newspaper will be able to cover the city in the same level of detail. granular than the Tribune or Calistogan. .

For example, he said, details of the Calistoga City Council race in 2022 will not be covered if the Tribune ceases publication in late September.

“No one will cover the debate or look at their campaign finances; nobody’s going to go to the planning commission, so we won’t know who those people are and what’s in the book,” Scully said. “It’s incredibly sad. (La Tribune is) a small newspaper but it means a lot to the people it matters to. And so it’s a real loss; it is a hole in the center of the community.

Scully added that due to the wealth of Napa Valley and Calistoga, he could see a future in which the paper would be saved. But that won’t happen with other newspapers across the country.

“It would be another one of those instances where Napa County gets something that other places don’t get just because we’re well off,” Scully said. “The tragedy is that this is happening everywhere, and in communities that have no hope of saving their newspapers.”

Yountville Sun owner wants to retire

Alongside her Tribune article on Thursday, Sharon Stensaas, founding writer and publisher of Yountville Sun, said she plans to retire and look for a buyer — or close before the end of the year if no suitable landlord. cannot be found.

“I need your help,” Stensaas wrote in a front-page column Thursday. “It’s time for me to retire, and I want to leave this labor of love with new stewards/owners committed to the community and reporting on its news. I hope you feel, as I do, that there is something of value at stake here, something that has become part of the fabric of the community.

Stensaas and her late husband, Oscar Rhodes, founded The Sun in 1998 shortly after moving from Syracuse, New York, to Napa County, which they had visited on their honeymoon.

“We had no place to stay, so we rented a house for a year, thinking that if the paper didn’t come out, we could just go somewhere else,” she said in an interview on Thursday. afternoon. “(But) it was an instant hit – there was a lot going on in Yountville in 1998. The Yountville Hotel had just opened; just like the Villagio and the Bistro Jeanty. There were a lot of changes and people were happy to hear what was going on.

According to Stensaas, who served as editor while Rhodes died in 2013, advertising sold.

Stensaas said the newspaper – which is distributed free by mail to around 3,700 addresses each week – has been able to meet rising printing costs and other expenses over the years. But age and changing priorities, she said, were the main drivers of her decision to walk away from the journal she started.

“I’m 72 now and I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years, and I no longer have the ability or the inclination to continue with the stress of deadlines,” said Stensaas, who has worked for two Colorado newspapers. , then in companies. public relations before moving to Yountville. “Everyone I know, including all of my family, my cousins, they’re all retired, and there are other things I would love to do.”

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and I think it’s time for someone else to come along and make the improvements that I haven’t been able to achieve.”

Near the top of the list of changes Stensaas hopes to see under new ownership is a greater online presence, which she says has long been a low priority due to the Sun’s vastly older readership, which includes residents the Veterans Home of California and two communities of mobile homes.

Many Sun readers “weren’t early adopters of (Internet) communications and we haven’t had a lot of requests,” she recalls before adding with a laugh, “We do now. I can not lie.

Stensaas plans to continue living in Yountville but was cautious about her future plans other than “submit (submit) a few letters to the editor along the way,” she said in her Sun column.

Also on Thursday, Mayor John Dunbar expressed his appreciation for Stensaas’ work, which he said went beyond just news gathering to creating a deeper sense of community in Yountville.

“I appreciate how Sharon and the Sun have really connected the people of Yountville,” he said. “The real value of a small town newspaper is not so much in the breaking news; it’s about providing the community with a connection to what’s going on in our neighborhoods, with our friends, and it’s really as much a way to stay connected as a community as it is a source of information.

You can reach Edward Booth at 707-256-2213.


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