“We All Share the Same Passion. We Love This Town and Want to Keep People Informed.”

From a New York Times story by James Dobbins headlined “In a Widening News Desert, a Tabloid Start-Up Defies the Odds”:

DEL RIO, Texas — At the Chihuahuan Desert’s eastern limits, Brian Argabright photographed anglers and their catch at the Border Bass Battle for The Del Rio News-Herald, a chronicler of the wind-swept border town since 1884.

Three days later, he would learn the tournament story would be his last for The News-Herald.

On Nov. 18, the nationwide newspaper crisis touched Val Verde County when The News-Herald printed its final edition. The end was swift for the staff and a shock to residents, who had somehow expected their newspaper to last forever.

Leonard Woolsey, president of Southern Newspapers Inc., the corporation that owns The News-Herald, came to Del Rio to fire 10 employees. For him, it was the right thing to do it in person. Revenue could not cover payroll. . . .

The closure left Val Verde County without a trusted newspaper, another victim in a trend researchers at the University of North Carolina deemed “The Expanding News Desert.” An estimated 300 newspapers have closed and 6,000 journalists have lost their jobs over the past two years, according to their research, as circulation fell by five million readers.

In Texas, 134 counties — a little more than half the state — have just one newspaper, and 21 have no newspaper at all. Del Rio, the Vale Verde County seat, teetered on becoming the 22nd.

Enter Joel Langton, a 56-year-old military public-affairs veteran who decided to turn an online events website he had started into a 16-page, ad-supported weekly tabloid, Del Rio’s 830 Times.

“The News-Herald had a great staff and a bad business plan,” he said. “Publishers came in from the outside every 18 months. Del Rio is a complicated culture. I’ve been here for 15 years and still don’t know everything going on.”

After The News-Herald closed, Mr. Langton stepped forward to turn his 5-month-old 830Times.com, named after the local telephone area code, into a newspaper. He had a web designer and knew someone who could make layouts. But he needed reporters to cover Del Rio.

He brought on Mr. Argabright and another former News-Herald writer, Karen Gleason, to fill his pages as freelancers.

“The fact they said yes makes me tear up because I have so much respect for both of them,” Mr. Langton wrote in the newspaper’s first issue. “We all share the same passion — Del Rio. We love this town and want to keep people informed.”

The 830 Times is a solution to Del Rio’s biggest problem, as Mr. Langton sees it — how to keep residents from moving away.

“People say there is nothing to do here, but that’s not true,” he said. “The 830 Times was originally set up to let people know about the fun things going on.”

Mr. Langton is right. There are entertainments to be had in Del Rio, though most of them are of the outdoor variety. . . .

The 830 Times so far has 3,000 followers on its Facebook page. The disparate numbers hint at the obstacles Mr. Langton faces in his push to make The 830 Times succeed in a world dominated by Google and Facebook advertising and competitors with Spanish-language appeal.

“For now, I’m footing the bill,” he said. “Am I gambling on the print product? Yes. I could lose it all.”. . .

Mr. Langton operates his news empire from a sideboard he uses as a desk in his dining room, dealing with his reporters and the company that prints the paper, 153 miles away, by cellphone.

On a Wednesday morning last month, it was 5:30 a.m., The 830 Times’s inaugural edition was late, and Mr. Langton was dialing the phone.

“I hate calling people this early, but I have to get my stuff out,” he said, bemoaning the troubles of his new venture. It was inspection week at the Air Force base, and he could not be late.

Moments later, a delivery driver arrived in the cold, pre-dawn darkness and unloaded 2,000 copies. . . .

Plenty of people are counting on Mr. Langton to make a go of it. Steven T. Webb, a former Del Rio police officer who won a runoff in December for the City Council, said the fact that only 12 percent of voters turned out in the general election was partly attributable to the News-Herald shutdown. “Social media, friends, that’s the only way we get the news now,” he said. “It hurt us, the newspaper closing.”

For now, Mr. Langton is focusing on advertising and editing, leaving the story ideas and writing to Mr. Argabright and Ms. Gleason. Del Rio’s 830 Times is crawling, he said, but he hopes soon the newspaper learns how to walk and run. Mostly, Mr. Langton wants the residents to love his publication as their own.

“The 830 Times is a leap of faith,” Ms. Gleason said. She had known Mr. Langton all of two days before the first issue was finished. “I just want this paper to be a voice for the community, interesting and truthful stories about people in Del Rio.”

Mr. Langston concedes that his efforts to provide Del Rio with a newspaper it can hold in its hands are probably temporary. He believes the printed word is going extinct.

“I hate to tell you this, buddy,” he said. “But in five or 10 years, newspapers won’t exist anymore.”

He figures he has five years to prove himself wrong.

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