Clarion's first publisher says a final goodbye

By Bob Savage

I am grateful for the opportunity to address Clarion readers a final time, as Livingston County's last locally-owned print news outlet prepares to shuffle into oblivion.Observers might conclude The Clarion is simply the victim of a two-news-vehicle crash with a bigger, better-financed product, the broadsheet Livingston County News. As The Clarion's first publisher I have a unique perspective on that.
It was late 1988 when, faced with the looming demise of the Livonia-based former Brador Publications that included the Livonia Gazette, Lima Recorder, Honeoye Falls Times and Honeoye Lake News, some local residents suggested we at then-new WYSL? with financial support from grocer Frank West - start up a new weekly tabloid-format paper from scratch.
Using nascent computer publishing technology, we launched what was at first simply called, The Clarion. Sadly and quite literally, what was left of The Gazette crashed and burned. A parking lot named after the departed 117-year old weekly paper is all that remains of the Livonia Gazette's former landmark building on Main Street.
My mom, Frances B. Savage, served as editor there, and both my brother Dick and I had worked there during high school.While the greystone publishing house which emitted the clacking of letterpresses and a strong odor of ink and oil through open windows in the summertime was gone, we could at least still have a local newspaper.
Fast forward to 1991: after a little more than two years of Clarion operation, it became evident that predicted newspaper-radio synergies were less than prepossessing. Corrin Strong's crew bought WYSL's half of The Clarion and decamped for Main Street in Avon. My pithy op-ed observations on the passing scene, to use Mr. O'Reilly's phrase, disappeared from the Clarion. Sic transit my column “Sans Serif.”
And now, 18 years on, after superb coverage of news items ranging from The '91 Ice Storm to Geneseo's recent big-box retail wrestles, the Clarion now falls silent as an independent community voice. Not that the efforts of countless hard-working employees have gone for naught, as the Clarion has had a proud history of trumpeting a raucous truth which was as unmistakable as it was impossible to ignore.
Few in the Livingston community, this writer included, might choose to take the strident stands or wield the impudent style of the Clarion's final publisher. Maybe it's been a rocky editorial road, but it's been outrageously fun to watch, and this region has been the better for its erratic and sometimes errant voice.
So what's happened to our only locally-owned paper? Corrin hasn't discussed the specific causes with me in depth, but it's not hard to figure out. As an exercise in curiosity, I selected at random the September 20, 1990 edition of the Clarion from a personal archive. Leafing through yellowed pages, it was easy to confirm that recently the paper has been bleeding from lack of advertising support.
In 1990, there appeared display ads for: Livonia Center General Store, The Avon Inn, Kanes Sausage Shop & Deli in Avon, Angie's Style Shop, Four Seasons Seafood and Delights in Lakeville, Countrytown Carpets, Livonia Collision, Walter C. Meyer Chevrolet, Tropicale Tanning,Vasile's Station 42., The Avon Coppersmith, Lords Automotive, East Avon Agway. And Waters Edge Marina.
Now all gone, with plenty more; the reader naturally understands that while these small businesses have been replaced by Dollar Tree, Mr. Seconds, Tops, and Wal-Mart, that they once supplied lifeblood of The Clarion.
In a very real sense, this combination editorial and obituary is long overdue. Corrin Strong deserves most of the credit for flogging precious weekly life into the balky enterprise of running a weekly newspaper. From an ever-disappearing advertising base to agenda-driven local political opposition to quirky editors and reporters teeming with impracticable idealism, the lot of a small-town publisher is never an easy one. The optimist sees the glass as half-full. The pessmist sees it as half-empty. A newspaper publisher must think, when's it going to spill? It's not hard to appreciate that, after 18 years, one can expect Corrin's energy reserves and spirit to approximate “running on fumes.” Experience has taught this writer: it's never lonelier than when there's no gas in the tank and no cash in the bank.
Time and the tides wait for no man, as was once said; let us all pray that societal and economic tumult leave us all on a sunnier beach than the ones we have already tread.
Long after the echoes of lugubrious sentiment from a former publisher have died away, let us still listen for our receding footsteps, so as better to learn our way forward.
I send heartfelt thanks for a job well done to Corrin Strong and his Clarion associates of the past 18 years. I extend best wishes to Mark Gillespie and the Livingston County News, as the new keeper of a battered but faithful instrument.
We all hope that we always read a local newspaper which can proudly proclaim -as did the Clarion and the Livonia Gazette did before, “this is the only newspaper which truly has the interests of this community at heart.”

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