Todd Schurz, president of Schurz Communications

There are times when you know in your head what the right decision is, but your heart finds it almost too difficult to imagine.

The Schurz family’s history in the newspaper publishing business, which began with the start-up of the South Bend (IN) Tribune in 1872, will end this week with the sale of this newspaper and others to GateHouse Media, which is one of the largest publishers of locally based media in the United States and owns 565 publications across 37 states. I penned this column to share with you the reasons for the sale and to discuss the future of this paper.

Our family company’s goal is to pass on to the next generations of customers, employees, communities and owners an organization that is even better and stronger than what it is today.

When the term “digital disruption” is used, the newspaper industry is often one of the first examples that comes to mind. We all see and experience the change in behavior as news and information are now accessed on multiple devices and digital platforms at any time of the day or night. What is less obvious, except perhaps in the reduced size and bulk of the printed product, is the sharp reduction in advertising.

In the past dozen years, total advertising revenues for our papers have dropped significantly — by more than half. The business model that has sustained community newspapers for literally generations is under severe stress. While we have had some success in pursuing strategies to increase digital audiences and revenues, they have not been enough to offset the losses in the traditional business. Given the challenges to the industry and our size, we could not be the publisher nor the employer that we aspire to be, so we determined it was time for our family to exit and find the next owner and steward of these businesses. These newspapers will be better and stronger with GateHouse, which brings the skills, expertise and scale to better manage this changing landscape and thrive in the future.

Our family firm will remain in the information business, but will now focus more on the technology side as we manage our businesses in the broadband and cloud communications industries. We still value journalism and believe in its vital importance to our democratic form of government.

Our nation’s Constitution is the oldest and most stable in the history of the world, and its First Amendment is still the bedrock of our cherished individual liberties: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We have had a remarkable time in this industry and in these communities, and we treasure the memories and relationships we have made along the way. While words cannot adequately express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for our employees, subscribers, advertisers, customers and the communities we have called home, let me conclude by saying thank you. It has been a great honor and privilege to be a part of your lives.

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