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Washington Examiner Bows Quietly from Daily Publication

By T.C. Cameron

Last Friday’s June 14 deadline came and went unceremoniously, signaling the end to the Washington Examiner’s eight-year run in daily print journalism.

The closure of the Examiner as a daily publication was announced in March. In its place, the owner, Clarity Media Group, made public plans to move the paper to a daily online business model with a weekly print magazine, both aimed exclusively at national politics.

Print staffers released after Friday’s final daily edition were notified they would lose their jobs March 19. Examiner Editor Stephen G. Smith, Executive Editor Mark Tapscott and Managing Editor of Digital Jennifer Peebles have remained with the company. Some staffers were re-hired as part of 20 new positions added for the publication’s digital rollout, but most were not.

Managing Editor Michael Hedges seemed to sum up what many readers and writers felt about the paper’s best editorial work.

"We provided a valuable service to this town," Hedges said. "We fought the good fight."

The Examiner started in February 2005 as a free, seven-day paper which grew out of the ashes of the old Journal Newspapers. The owner announced that they would deliver separate editions to selected neighborhoods in the District, Maryland and Virginia, and the paper would be available from street vendors near Metro stops. The owner, which had bought the San Francisco Examiner a year earlier, announced that these would be the first in a chain of free daily newspapers that would be started across the country.

The paper had delivery problems from the very beginning, with many people complaining that they did not want the newspapers, while others complained that they could not get the paper.

The owners started a Baltimore Examiner in 2006 but it ran into similar problems with delivery and with attracting enough advertising. It also folded in early 2009.

In July 2008, the Washington paper reduced its printing scheduled to five days a week, Sunday to Friday, and cutback on home delivery to just two days of the week. The reduced delivery schedule eased circulation complaints, but it did not attract much more advertising.

The Examiner distinguished itself with several investigative stories pertaining to transportation, according to staff writer Matt Connolly, who wrote the paper’s unofficial obituary in Friday’s final edition.

The paper’s demise was lamented at length by the New Republic’s Michael Schaffer, who openly pined for a dedicated D.C. tabloid to succeed the Examiner’s often jaw-dropping headlines. Not all of the remembrance was fond. Washington City Paper poked fun at the paper’s chronic feuds over unwanted home delivery. Media Bistro’s snarky Fishbowl D.C. poked fun at some of the clichés and other offbeat prose found on the newsroom’s editorial wall of shame.

The Examiner was an MDDC member publication until 2012.

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