At this week’s meeting, the City Council approved a resolution authorizing our staff to negotiate and enter into an agreement to start a new College Park local newspaper.
If the agreement works out, the new newspaper may hit the doors sometime in March / April time frame.
After the Gazette paper stopped its publication back in 2015, there has been a vacuum in the easy access to local news and information, in particular, in the area of print media.
The University of Maryland based paper The Diamondback was still around, until it too decided to stop publishing its print editions a few weeks ago.
The Gazette was delivered to all single-family residences in the City (and beyond, to the entire northern P.G. County) and copies were also placed at various locations. The proposed College Park paper is expected to be mailed to City’s residential homes.
According to the agreement with the City, the Hyattsville Community Newspaper, Inc. (HCN, publisher of the Hyattsville Life & Times) would publish a new, monthly, full-color newspaper.
The paper will be mailed to residential and business addresses in College Park, as well as distributed free at popular gathering spots in and around College Park.
The newspaper would contain entirely local content – news, events, City Council, development, schools, neighborhoods, major crimes, features, personalities, and more. The City government would not review the newspaper’s editorial coverage.
After the Gazette announced its decision to discontinue publication, I asked to have a worksession to discuss exploring other ways to disseminate information to its residents. One idea was to partner with a local newspaper publisher, such as the HL&T.
The HCN is proposing to provide four pages of space for City content in each issue, created, branded, and paid by the City government. The startup budget for the newspaper anticipates approximately $30,000 is total expenses during the first four months. The primary revenue during this period is proposed to be City of College Park monthly payments of $6,500; $6,000; $5,500; and $5,000 (a total of $23,000 for four months with declining payments as business advertising increases). Business advertising is estimated to total $7,000 for the same period but would likely increase in the coming months.
The new paper should give another way to connect with a large group of our residents, in particular our senior citizens, many of who do not have access to online media.
The City currently shares these contents using its Municipal Scenes publication. City residents can get paper copies of the Municipal Scenes mailed to them by special requests.
According to the publisher, when the paper starts getting advertisement revenues, the City’s portion of the cost may go down from $6,500 to $3,300 per month.
The Hyattsville paper has 14 pages, the City (government) only sponsors 3 pages of its own content and spends a little less than $30,000 per year. Based on this and assuming College Park will be sponsoring 4 pages, the yearly cost may be around 40,000. In the future, cost could be brought down further, by sponsoring 3 pages instead of 4.
HCN mails about 7,600 copies to addresses in the City of Hyattsville and to advertisers, and distributes another 1800 copies to various locations. The College Park print and mail run would be comparable.
This week’s decision was about to run the paper for 4-5 months in the current fiscal year. The City will be reviewing residents feedback and negotiate / sign another contract with the publisher in the next fiscal year.