Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Newspaper war rages in small Kan. town

When Earl Watt quit his job as publisher of the town's 121-year-old newspaper, he went from being its valued employee to its biggest nemesis, turning this southwest Kansas community into one of the nation's most unlikely battlegrounds over newspaper cutbacks.

Watt and 15 employees of the Southwest Times walked off their jobs after its out-of-town owners scaled back the then-daily paper to a three-day-a-week publication a year ago. Gadsden, Ala.-based Lancaster Management Inc., which owns 18 newspapers in nine states, also raised fees, cut staff and slashed the paper's newswire service, comics, television listings and other features.

Suddenly, Liberal — population 20,000 and nestled in the Kansas prairie — became a two-paper town. A third publication, a weekly, seeks the same readers and advertisers, too.

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