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The Rivertowns Enterprise Suspends Publication: Implications on the Westchester Local News Ecosystem and Potential Solutions


On January 19, readers across the Rivertowns were surprised to learn that, as of January 15, 2024, The Rivertowns Enterprise, a local print newspaper, suspended publication indefinitely. According to a brief statement issued by The Enterprise on its website, the suspension is due primarily to a lack of adequate funds, and the publishers are currently looking for “solutions to bring us back to financial sustainability.”

This occurrence coincided with the suspension of publication of two other local newspapers, The Scarsdale Inquirer and The Record Review, which served the towns of Bedford, Lewisboro, and Pound Ridge. All three papers share a publisher and display the same message regarding the closure on their websites. The Buzzer emailed the owner and former Editor-in-Chief of The Enterprise for comment, but neither responded.

The suspensions of the Westchester local newspapers follow a trend across the United States. AP News reported in November 2023 that, in 2023, an average of two and a half newspapers closed each day. That was an increase from the average of two newspapers per day in 2022.

The suspension of The Enterprise impacts many aspects of the Rivertowns community. In interviews and on community calls, residents have pointed out that they relied on the paper for information about local event listings, elections, and government proceedings. Community members also miss the police blotter, obituaries, and “Letters to the Editor.”

One local institution impacted by the closure is the Hastings Public Library, which relied on The Enterprise to publicize events, as well as publish features on speakers promoting new books or films. Debbie Quinn, the Library Director, described the library’s connection with The Enterprise as “a very good working relationship.” She also mentioned in an interview that “it was a major way for people to know what was going on in the library.”

Although the library has other ways of getting the word out about events, such as Village e-blasts, Facebook, and Instagram, Quinn said that “there’s nothing like having it in print…we really want to have both [print and digital].”

The closure also impacts coverage of high school sports. Mr. Wendol, the Hastings School District Director of Health, Physical Education, and Athletics, said in an interview that The Enterprise “was another way for [him] to highlight everyone [and for students] to be able to read something about their peers playing a sport.” 

Mr. Wendol also brought up the importance of local news to student athletes: “It’s huge to have people see their name in the paper. Our society is drifting away from hard copies of papers, which is a little different. That’s what was nice about The Enterprise, since we would have a picture and a story in print.”

Before the closure, Mr. Wendol would call The Enterprise if there was a big sporting event at HHS. The Journal News and News 12 also used to cover high school sports but have since stopped. Without these local news sources, Mr. Wendol said that it is up to the school to do its own publicity. He relies on email blasts to the community for promotion of immediate events, and he also makes a document highlighting key events in each sports season that is posted on the Hastings schools website.

The suspension of the local papers surprised Westchester residents, and many have since jumped into action to rehabilitate the local news ecosystem. 

The situation inspired Lucas Cioffi and Sandra Nam, partners from Edgemont who co-created and co-run the startup Qiqo, to quickly organize a community Zoom meeting on February 1 to provide a space for residents to brainstorm solutions to address the closures. 

Cioffi described their motivation for the Zoom call in a recent interview: “We want to see strong news organizations taking root in each of the villages across the county…[and] to help jumpstart innovation, because there’s so much potential and it’s so urgent.” Nam further mentioned that local news is “civic information that connects all of us to where we live.”

Cioffi and Nam worked with the Westchester Youth Council in preparation for the event. The Council helped organize and facilitate the call, and Cioffi and Nam publicized the call using their personal and professional networks, as well as Facebook. 

Three hundred nineteen people attended the February 1 call for at least part of its duration. The group discussed the importance of local news and split into breakout rooms to continue discussions about potential solutions. Although no real decisions were made during the meeting, it achieved Cioffi and Nam’s goal of connecting community members who cared about their local news ecosystem.

Cioffi and Nam continue to be at the frontlines of the issue, as they send around digital newsletters that update residents on the state of the local news ecosystem and help to connect those working on solutions.

The Hastings Public Library is also contributing to the effort to create a more vibrant news ecosystem. It hosted a press conference on March 7 in collaboration with Cioffi and Nam. The press conference was in support of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, an act before the New York State Senate that “provides tax credits to local news outlets for the employment of local news journalists,” according to a press release from the Empire State Local News Coalition. 

Inspired by the support rallied by Cioffi and Nam’s February 1 call, Sue Treiman and Kris DiLorenzo joined forces to organize a community Zoom meeting on March 13, specifically to tackle the closure of The Enterprise. Both Treiman and DiLorenzo are Dobbs Ferry residents and former reporters; DiLorenzo worked at The Enterprise for eight years. Treiman explained her view on the need for local news by saying that residents “feel attached to it, they identify with it, and it’s needed.” 

When discussing takeaways from the March 13 meeting, Treiman said that she “was impressed with the appetite for real reporting, particularly for real, critical, investigative analytical reporting.” Many of the attendees were news professionals or those involved in a journalism setting. Although the call was set up to discuss Rivertown-specific solutions, not all attendees were from the Rivertowns; some were residents of surrounding areas also affected by newspaper closures who wanted to explore the issue and see what others were doing. During the meeting, discussions focused on the financial aspects of a potential solution (whether or not to be nonprofit, whether or not there should be ads and/or subscriptions, etc.), whether it should be online or print, the frequency of publication, and what geographic area it should cover. 

One solution explored was the Rivertowns Dispatch, a new publication that its creators hope to evolve into a weekly printed newspaper. Currently the staff of the Rivertowns Dispatch includes Tim Lamorte, the former Editor of The Enterprise, and three writers, including DiLorenzo. The Rivertowns Dispatch will cover the same geographic area as The Enterprise (Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, and Irvington) and will have both subscriber and membership offerings. The publication will start online and then become print if it gets sufficient funds.

Janine Annett, a Hastings resident, started another replacement for The Enterprise. Called the Rivertowns Current, it is currently a Substack with 374 subscribers as of April 8. 

Annett is a freelance writer and said in an interview that she noticed that “there was such a void created when all of a sudden, one of our reliable local sources of news folded. I just feel like The Enterprise was so special and beloved by so many people in Hastings in the other Rivertowns.” She was inspired to take action after the February 1 meeting and “decided to sort of just jump in, you know, there’s that expression, leap and hope that the net will appear. That’s kind of what I did here.”

Annett has previous experience with Substack, and she decided that an online newsletter would “help fill a void until a more permanent, viable solution can be found.” The Rivertowns Current covers Hastings, Dobbs, Ardsley, and Irvington, and it mainly publicizes local events. Annett wants to expand the newsletter. She is currently talking to The Hudson Independent, another Rivertowns local newspaper, to cross post stories. 

People can subscribe to the Rivertowns Current for free or they can also choose to have a paid subscription. Both options offer the same content, but the paid subscription helps support the continuation of the newsource. As more people help to financially support the Rivertowns Current, Annett said that she hopes to hire writers and editors, and even possibly transition to a printed model. Even if the Rivertowns Current is a temporary measure until a more permanent paper appears, Annett hopes to continue to be involved in local news: “Eventually, I’d love to see a print paper for Hastings and the Rivertowns, I’d love to be a part of that in some way, shape, or form.”

Everyone interviewed and most attendees on the February 1 and March 13 calls appeared confident that a solution to the suspension of The Enterprise will prevail. Many were encouraged by the eagerness of the community to band together and solve the problem, and they conveyed that there is much to be hopeful about when considering the future of Westchester local news.

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About the Contributor
Frieda Belasco, Managing Editor
Currently a junior at Hastings High School, Frieda has been writing for "The Buzzer" for three years and a Managing Editor for two. Journalism has always been a part of Frieda's life, and she's been looking forward to writing for "The Buzzer" since 6th grade. When she's not stressing about schoolwork, you can find her reading historical fiction novels, exploring cafes with her friends, or listening to music.

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    Lucas CioffiApr 12, 2024 at 10:37 am

    Frieda, this is an excellent summary of how the community is rising to the occasion. Thank you very much for bringing it together.