Penn Hills Progress stops the presses

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The Penn Hills Progress, a community weekly for the past 49 years, ceased publication with today's edition.

Kimberly Palmiero, managing editor of the paper, declined comment on its closing. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday that its parent company, Trib Total Media, would cease publication of the Penn Hills Progress and six other weeklies following today's editions.

The discontinued newspapers are among 17 that Trib Total Media acquired from Gateway Press in 2003.

Also terminating operations today are the Woodland Progress, which reports on Chalfant, Churchill, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Turtle Creek and Wilkins; Advance Leader, which covers Oakmont and Verona; North Journal; McKnight Journal; Bridgeville Area News; and Coraopolis-Moon Record News.

The Tribune-Review reported that the 10 remaining Gateway weeklies will continue in production. The newspaper also reported that, beginning with next Thursday's edition, eight of those papers will expand to include news from the communities that are losing their papers.

The weeklies that will expand are the Monroeville Times Express; Plum Advance Leader; Murrysville Star; Norwin Star; Penn-Trafford Star; Signal-Item, which reports on Crafton, Carnegie, Green Tree and Rosslyn Farms; Pine Creek Journal; and Sewickley Herald.

Two other weeklies are unaffected by the changes: the South Hills Record and the Herald, which covers Aspinwall and Fox Chapel. Four editorial positions were lost as a result of the changes, according to the Tribune-Review report.

The Penn Hills Progress provided readers with extensive details about their community. In addition to reports on local government, it devoted space to school picnics, summer reading clubs, lunch menus at senior centers and other daily events.

The June 5 issue featured a special tribute to the 2008 graduates of Penn Hills High School, with front-page photos and three pages of coverage inside, including the name of each graduate and the scholarships they received.

Some Penn Hills residents said they will miss the paper.

"It's very upsetting," said Meryl Thomas, who has lived in Penn Hills for 32 years. "People really look forward to the Progress each week. It covers everything.

"How will all this information get communicated?"

For the past 11 years, Ms. Thomas has served as president of the Penn Hills PTA Council, a consortium of PTA presidents from district schools. She said the community benefited from the Progress' reporting of school news, which often consisted of several articles per week.

"I remember years ago, when the Progress would print all the names of middle and high school kids who made the honor roll," she said.

Mary Ann Zeak, acting librarian at William E. Anderson Library in Penn Hills, became acquainted with the Progress when she began working at the library 32 years ago. The paper was much slimmer then, but no less important, she said.

"People love the paper," she said.

Ms. Zeak noted that the end of the Progress could cost the library money because the library relied on the paper -- not a marketing budget -- to publicize its upcoming events.

"We could count on a constant presence in the Progress just about every week," she said. "Not everyone sees our blurbs in the bigger newspapers and not everybody uses the Internet.

"Without the Progress, people might not know how much the library has to offer."

Ms. Zeak said the library is investigating cost-effective publicity options.

"It will tax our limited budget. We didn't have to worry about that before."

Tina Calabro is a freelance writer.


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