FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Its final headlines are almost archaic when looking at them through the lens of today.
Medical professionals were tracking the state’s first coronavirus case and the Fort Wayne Ballet cancelled the rest of its season due to the pandemic. Electric Works was a far cry from reality as it lost city tax credits the day before, and tucked away just above the proverbial fold, someone wrote an editorial about the usefulness of something called Zoom everyone was beginning to use for online meetings.
For more than three years, The News-Sentinel’s website sat frozen in time, perpetually stuck at April 23, 2020.
On Wednesday, a publication that dates back to 1833 may have finally gone dark for good.
What this means for the city’s media landscape – other than a news organization its owners and higher-ups once hoped to possibly resurrect may now be permanently defunct – is not totally clear.
But the effect seems to be minimal.
When reached for comment, Lori Fritz, Fort Wayne Newspapers president and CEO, released the following statement:
“News-sentinel.com hasn’t been active recently and a decision was made to redirect traffic to fortwayne.com, operated by Fort Wayne Newspapers. That decision has no effect on journalgazette.net, which is operated by The Journal Gazette newsroom. The JG is locally owned and operated by The Journal Gazette Co.”
Fort Wayne Newspapers is a partnership between The News Publishing Company, owned by West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers, and the locally-owned Journal Gazette Company.
The News-Sentinel began in 1833 under the name The Sentinel before merging with The Fort Wayne Daily News in 1918.
In the mid-1930s, Helene Foellinger took over the paper in the wake of her father’s death, becoming the youngest publisher of a major daily newspaper in the country at the time. Foellinger helped form the joint operating agreement with The Journal Gazette in an effort for both publications to share advertising and save on printing costs while keeping editorial departments separate.
How revenue might be shared between the two entities and costs split due to the current joint operating agreement has never been public record.
Eventually, Foellinger sold the paper to Knight-Ridder in 1980.
As circulation of the paper began to decline dramatically at the onset of the 2000s, Knight-Ridder was bought by McClatchy Company, which in turn sold The News-Sentinel to Ogden Newspapers.
In 2017, Fort Wayne Newspapers shifted The News-Sentinel from the city’s afternoon paper to an online product. The company, though, still published a physical page in editions of The Journal Gazette afterward.
In August 2018, the company laid off nearly the entirety of its staff and retained a single reporter in order to keep its joint operating agreement with The Journal Gazette alive.
Fort Wayne Newspapers suspended publication of The News-Sentinel on April 23, 2020 and furloughed Kevin Leininger, its lone remaining reporter and long-time columnist.
Employees in advertising, production and the company’s niche products divisions were also furloughed while positions in the circulation department were eliminated.
The company’s public line, though, was optimistic.
“The global pandemic and resulting shutdown of the northeast Indiana economy has placed downward pressure on many businesses,” then-Fort Wayne Newspapers President and CEO Scott Stanford said at the time. “It is our hope that, as businesses are able to reopen, the economy begins to improve and business returns to more normal levels, we will be able to bring back furloughed employees and restore features like the News-Sentinel page.”
Stanford has since moved on from Fort Wayne Newspapers.
In the years since, at least two major moves have been made by both Fort Wayne Newspapers and The Journal Gazette Company.
Last year, Fort Wayne Newspapers purchased KPC Media, acquiring three daily newspapers covering Kendallville, Auburn and Angola as well as the Columbia City Post &Mail and the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.
Earlier this year, The Journal Gazette axed its long-running Sunday edition due to rising production and delivery costs.