AUGUSTA — The Capital Weekly — which had circulated in greater Augusta for 17 years — three sister publications and an entertainment magazine ceased abruptly Friday.

Richard M. Anderson, owner of the Village NetMedia publications, said recent efforts to restructure company finances failed and forced the abrupt closure of The Bar Harbor Times, Capital Weekly, VillageSoup Gazette (Rockland), VillageSoup Journal (Belfast), and the Scene, an entertainment publication. An announcement on the company’s website site indicated 56 people lost their jobs.

Capital Weekly’s offices on Water Street in Augusta were closed Saturday, and no one was there. However, a small stack of Capital Weekly newspapers remained on a stand outside the double glass door entrance.
Nothing in the March 9 print issue indicates it is the last one.

The announcement, however, was on the company’s website late Friday night, and a number of readers posted sympathetic comments in response.

“The profound changes in the newspaper publishing business, a weak economy and our investment in new products created severe financial challenges,” Anderson wrote to subscribers and readers. “Over the recent months, I have worked with outside professionals to achieve a financial restructuring that would allow us to continue. These efforts failed as of 3 p.m. today, March 9, 2012. We can no longer sustain our operations.”

In that message, Anderson said he was confident “that others will step forward and replace the loss of professional journalism and community service previously provided by our publications.”

Tom Farkas, of Pittston, was a newspaper reporter for the Kennebec Journal when he left to become Capital Weekly’s first editor in March 1995. He said Saturday he and many other former employees were saddened by the news of Capital Weekly’s closing, and Farkas said he was concerned about the future of the newspaper industry in general.

“Anyone who’s been following local newspapering for the past 10 years can see that it’s a troubled industry,” he said. “The pattern I see is every new owner seems to be selling something off and diminishing the capital and resources, taking a profit and selling the chain to the next company that will buy it.”

The Rockland-based Courier Publications started Capital Weekly in March 1995 when the chain had a number of other newspapers: The  Bar Harbor Times, Ellsworth Weekly, Republican Journal, Courier Gazette and Lincoln County Weekly.

“It was a real feisty little chain with emphasis on community journalism,” Farkas said. “What was beautiful about working for Capital Weekly and helping to start up that paper, was that all of us who were involved helped develop and cultivate a weekly reading habit in greater Augusta.”

Farkas recalled the fun of grabbing a stack of newspapers when the truck arrived from the printing plant in Rockland, and handing them out to motorists at Memorial Circle in Augusta, just steps from the paper’s then-State Street office.

“As folks came down the avenue, I would stand by the side of the road,” he said.

And while he was handing them out at a Winthrop restaurant, he struck up a conversation with a woman whom he later married.

The paper — originally a freebie — caught on quickly and converted to a paid publication eight months later.
When Farkas left after four years to become city editor of the Brunswick Times-Record, Capital Weekly had a paid circulation of 6,700 and was mailed out in a broadsheet format.

“By time it had expired yesterday, it was back to a free, tabloid-size newspaper,” he said.

Farkas is now communications and training coordinator for the Maine State Employees Association.

Cindy and Barry Crowell of Winthrop were faithful Capital Weekly readers. On Saturday, the latest issue was on their kitchen table. “We both just enjoy it,” Cindy Crowell said. “It always seems to be upbeat. We will miss it.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]