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2 La. community newspapers to fold at end of month

COVINGTON, La. (AP) -- Two Louisiana community newspapers that have been covering much of St. Tammany Parish and surrounding areas since the mid-1970s will fold at the end of the month.

St. Tammany News, which publishes The News Banner and the Slidell Sentry News, said Thursday it will print the last editions Feb. 27.

"The newspapers have been in direct competition with many publications and because the parish is connected to metropolitan New Orleans, the newspapers have had a tough time finding the sense of community that a community newspaper needs in order to be successful," said John Mathew, president and CEO of Arizona-based Wick Communications, the newspapers' parent company.

Wick Communications started the Slidell paper in 1975 and purchased the News Banner a year later. The two newspapers operated independently until 2005, when they combined staffs following Hurricane Katrina.

When the papers fold, 24 positions will disappear with them. Mathew said employees will get severance and help in finding jobs elsewhere.

The closing was announced Joy Kennon, publisher of the St. Tammany News and a group manager with Wick Communications.

"Many of you know we have struggled financially for the last few years, and unfortunately we are unable to continue operating at a loss each month," she told staff members.

Kennon pointed to declining advertising revenue in an uncertain economy as the cause of the financial woes. Katrina was also partly to blame for the shuttering of the newspapers and its website, thesttammanynews.com, she said.

"Since Hurricane Katrina there has been a fundamental change in the parish population and the residents' desire for community news," Kennon said.

Mathew said Wick Communications' four other properties in Louisiana — L'Observateur in LaPlace, The Daily News and PN Printing, both of Bogalusa, and The Daily Iberian in New Iberia — will remain in operation.