The Boston Courant, a weekly newspaper that covered some of Boston’s most prosperous neighborhoods for 20 years, said it is ceasing publication after its owners lost a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former employee.
In a note on the front page of last Friday’s Courant, publishers David Jacobs and his wife, Gen Tracy, thanked readers and advertisers but said the cost of the judgment made it impossible to continue production of the free, print-only publication.
“You are reading the last issue of The Boston Courant,” the publishers wrote. “Given the legal fees and the amount of the judgment, it is no longer feasible for the paper to continue publishing.”
In a telephone interview Monday afternoon, Jacobs said the total cost of the judgment, with interest, rose to about $300,000. Though he had hoped for last-minute negotiations to lower the figure, “it’s not going to happen.” Last week, Jacobs told the Globe that he was not planning to close the Courant.
Jacobs said he and his wife were saddened to close the paper but heartened by an outpouring from readers in communities it covered, primarily Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the Fenway, the South End, and downtown.
“It has given me a great sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment,” said Jacobs, who had been a banker before starting the newspaper.
Vicki Smith, chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, spoke highly of publishers Jacobs and Tracy, saying they attended many local events. She praised the Courant’s coverage as even-handed, detailed, and sophisticated.
“It’s a huge loss,” she said. “They covered a lot of political issues that we cared about.”
Ron White, a South End resident for about eight years, said he enjoyed reading the Courant’s locally focused stories about real estate, politics, and crime.
“It’s a nice little neighborhood paper,” he said.
The origins of the employment dispute date to 2004, when Jacobs and Tracy paid a web designer $50,000 to mock up a digital edition of the paper. Then in 2008, the Courant hired advertising executive Kevin Smith to “increase print and web advertising sales.”
But the owners eventually decided against launching the website, later telling the Neiman Journalism lab they couldn’t find a viable online business model. Smith said in court records that he was fired after about one year when the website was scrapped.
In his complaint, Smith said that he was hindered in performing his duties because the Courant never launched the site and that the Courant’s owners breached their three-year contract with him by failing to do so. A jury ruled in favor of Smith, and the Courant exhausted its appeals in late January.
Reached by phone Sunday, Smith declined to comment, citing advice from his lawyer. Smith’s attorney could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Courant has a handful of employees, including an editor, two reporters, a copy editor, and several freelance writers, according to reporter Jordan Frias, 27, who described packing up the offices last week. Frias said he believed the paper would still be operating if not for the lawsuit.
“It’s a huge honor to work with someone who cared so deeply about the paper,” Frias said, referring to Jacobs.
Frias added that he had heard from many people upset about the closing of the paper.
“I could tell they relied on news that they couldn’t get elsewhere,” he said.
Aside from the farewell article, last Friday’s final edition included stories about real estate, as well as political news and police blotter items.
Jacobs said the publication’s Park Plaza offices were shuttered last week, and among other things, he faces the cost of breaking a lease. “Starting a company is a lot easier than closing one,” he said, likening it to the difference between a honeymoon and a divorce.