The Carriage Towne News, a free weekly newspaper that has catered to readers in southern New Hampshire towns such as Kingston and Fremont for 40 years, will publish its last edition Feb. 1.
“Despite the difficult decision to cease publication, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the dedicated team, contributors, advertisers, and, most importantly, our loyal readers who have made the Carriage Towne News a community staple,” the Carriage Towne News staff wrote in a note to readers published to its website.
The closure is just the latest example of a nationwide trend of newspapers shuttering their presses in recent decades as print readership and with it, print advertising revenue, has sharply declined. Readers have increasingly been turning to digital news sources and social media platforms such as Facebook to get their information.
“It was economically unfeasible to keep publishing the Carriage Towne News,” said Bill Ketter, the senior vice president for news at the newspaper’s parent company, CNHI. Ketter cited the rising costs of printing and less revenue from local advertisers as drivers of the decision to close the paper, which will also shutter its website shortly after.
Ketter said that the Carriage Towne News only had two staff members — its editor and advertising executive — both of whom will now work at The Eagle-Tribune, meaning there will be no layoffs.
Nonetheless, the loss of a long-time hyperlocal publication is resonating beyond small-town New Hampshire.
“The story is all so familiar,” said Greg Reibman, a former newspaper editor who is now the president of the Charles River Regional Chamber, a nonprofit that supports businesses in Newton, Needham, Wellesley, and other local towns. “These legacy newspapers … documented people’s lives in a way that’s done differently nowadays.”
The Carriage Towne News is part of the North of Boston Media Group, a collection of regional papers that includes The Eagle-Tribune, The Gloucester Daily Times, and The Salem News, and magazines such as Marblehead Home and Style. North of Boston Media Group, whose parent company CNHI was sold to the Retirement Systems of Alabama in 2019, encompasses a total of eight newspapers in southern New Hampshire and Essex County.
In its note to readers about the closure, the Carriage Towne News staff suggested that its audience turn to other publications that cover the region, such as the Eagle-Tribune. The daily paper, which has offices in North Andover and Derry, N.H., covers Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley and towns in southern New Hampshire.
“We have stake in New Hampshire news coverage,” Ketter said. He added that the Carriage Towne News “was never intended as a traditional newspaper,” but what was what he called a “total market coverage product or shopper” that carried local advertisements and notices for local events.
Recent articles on the outlet’s website include information about an upcoming Stratham Historical Society event about New England farm buildings, weekly programming at the Atkinson Community Center, and how the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough helped rescue “two iced-in Common Loons” from a local pond.
Ketter said that the Carriage Towne News is the only publication that’s part of the North of Boston Media Group that is closing.
Readers of the Carriage Towne News were dismayed by the decision to close the paper, adding that its loss will leave a void.
“Newspapers, in my opinion, were part of the glue that kept a community together,” said Matthew Thomas, 67, who serves as the town historian in Fremont, N.H., a town just northwest of Kingston. “Losing this paper now — for us here in Fremont and around — we have nothing to fall back on.”
The Carriage Towne News is not the first New Hampshire newspaper to shut down in recent years. The Citizen of Laconia, a daily newspaper, closed in 2016. The state also lost three weekly newspapers in 2022, according to Northwestern University’s 2023 State of Local News Report.
One bright spot as local newspapers across the country continue to falter is the rise of hyperlocal newsrooms — many of them nonprofits — that have helped fill gaps in coverage. New England nonprofit newsrooms that have launched in recent years include the Plymouth Independent, Brookline.News, and the New Hampshire Bulletin.
“This is an opportunity for somebody to come in and try to do some independent news project, whether it be a for-profit or a nonprofit,” Dan Kennedy, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, said of the Carriage Towne News closure.