George "Sonny" Carey figures he's had a hand in putting out more than 15,000 editions of The Daily Clintonian since returning to his family's newspaper from Indiana University in 1960.

Friday's edition was the last.

After more than a decade of steadily declining advertising revenue and the more recent downturn brought on by COVID-19, Carey and his sister, Diane Waugh, made the decision to stop publication of The Daily Clintonian.

'The Daily Clintonian made a difference'

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaProud publishers: The Daily Clintonian newspaper has been in the family of siblings Diane Waugh and George “Sonny” Carey’s since 1936, when their parents bought the newspaper. Friday was the last day of publication. Here, Diana and Sonny pose for a photo together in the newspaper’s front office.

In its century-long history, The Daily Clintonian has recorded the history of community goings-on and everything from the annual Little Italy Festival to the heinous acts of serial killer Orville Lynn Majors.

The Clintonian's news of record after Friday, Carey said, will be relegated to community members' posts on social media.

George L. and Elizabeth "Betty" Carey, Sonny and Diane's parents, moved from Lebanon, Indiana, and bought The Daily Clintonian in 1936 as the country climbed out of the Great Depression.

Sonny and Diane worked for the family operation, in varying capacities, beginning in grade school.

His time at IU excepted, Sonny has worked for the family paper his whole life. Diane pursued a career in teaching before returning to the paper after she retired as an educator.

Pouring their lives into the small-town paper makes the decision to end its circulation that much harder, Sonny said.

But with the financial viability of print media tenuous even before the past month, Sonny said COVID-19 and the lack of advertising revenue that came with it was the proverbial straw.

'The Daily Clintonian made a difference'

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza Final layout: Page designer Rachael Clements lays out a page for the last edition of the Daily Clintonian on Friday in Clinton.

"It's economics," Sonny said. "I wanted to keep it open, but it's not viable. We put a lot of our own money back into the business and ..."

Sonny said he's worked to sell the paper and it's parent printing company, Clinton Color Crafters, for the past 14 months.

He said four newspaper groups and a pair of graphic artists from Detroit all showed interest, but only the graphic artists made an offer.

"We decided not to sell to them because we found out they don't have a clue how to run a newspaper business," Sonny said.

In the past month those who run even the most successful newspapers have found the times trying. A surge of layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, print reductions and even closures are plaguing local newspapers. 

'The Daily Clintonian made a difference'

Last press run: The press of the Daily Clintonian on April 10, 2020, before its last run in the afternoon.

The Tribune-Star, for instance, recently announced it would cut its print newspaper distribution down to five days a week from seven effective May 3.

And it's not just small and medium-sized operations feeling the squeeze, newspapers in Dallas, Cleveland, Phoenix, Denver and Miami, among others, have announced either pay cuts or layoffs, according to data collected by the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organization.

Without local journalists who live in and know intimately the community, Waugh is concerned the public's interest and right to know will suffer.

"Our newspaper kept our communities informed," Waugh said. "And maybe more important, it kept politicians honest."

Sonny said the paper has received an outpouring of love and support from the community in the days since he announced the paper's closure earlier this week.

"Everyone is telling us they love what we do," Sonny said. "Loved what we did."

But Diane, fighting back tears, wasn't about to make the paper's final day of publication one of pity.

"The Daily Clintonian made a difference," said Waugh with a crack in her voice. "Everyone thought we'd be here forever.

"And we almost were."

Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at alex.modesitt@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex. 

'The Daily Clintonian made a difference'

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaDaily Clintonian veteran: Vanessa Payton trims the product before pasting it onto a page Friday in the composing room of the Daily Clintonian in Clinton. Payton has been an employee at the newspaper for 47 years.

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