By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
REGION – The notices reached mailboxes around June 25 sharing disappointing news — The Hudson Sun and the Marlborough Enterprise would cease publication later this month.
Immediately, longtime readers took to the internet to voice their reactions.
“That’s a shame,” one Facebook commenter posted in a Hudson group.
“What a travesty,” wrote another.
Some recalled childhood memories running paper routes for the iconic local publications. Others recalled writing gigs over the years. Several noted their long-running subscriptions.
“I don’t always read it, but always supported the idea of a local paper,” one individual wrote.
Still others reflected on the ways both the Sun and the Enterprise had shrunk in recent years, following a national trend of corporate consolidation and local newspaper closures.
A mark of that, one person noted, was the fact that the letter announcing the closure of the Sun carried a return address from Virginia, nearly 400 miles from the Main Street drag that Sun reporters once wore proverbial holes in as they chased down stories.
Sales, consolidations and format changes
The Marlborough Enterprise began publishing as the Daily Enterprise in 1889, 13 years before the Hudson Sun hit presses in 1902 as the Hudson Daily Sun.
A handful of restructurings first merged the paper, then brought it under the ownership of the Worcester Telegram.
From there, an accelerating period of corporate deals and consolidation had ownership of the Sun and the Enterprise pass through a number of hands, ultimately ending with the Community Newspaper Company in 1993.
CNC brought the Sun and Enterprise reporters under the same banner as their longtime rivals at the Middlesex News, now the MetroWest Daily News. In 1995, they further formalized that connection by reassigning Hudson and Marlborough reporters to the newsroom at the Middlesex News.
As the new millennia dragged into the 2010s, the company Gatehouse took ownership of what was at that point the MetroWest Daily News and a system of satellite weekly publications. Gatehouse then merged with USA Today publisher Gannett to form the nation’s single largest newspaper chain.
Longtime readers mourned a loss of content as these deals and mergers played out. But they stayed loyal to familiar broadsheet names.
“It was something you could depend on…It would let you know what was happening in town,” Dave Wilkinson said in an interview with the Community Advocate, reflecting on the version of the paper he read in his youth and young adulthood.
Community cornerstones in print
As the historic traditions that are the Sun and the Enterprise now look set to come to an end, readers and former staff are recalling past memories and modern realities that make these publications what they are.
There are columnists Rosemary Rimkus and Mary Wenzel, whose writings on Marlborough and Hudson have remained the cornerstone of the Sun and the Enterprise, respectively, to this day.
Focused on day-to-day happenings in town, both Rimkus’ “Keynotes” and Wenzel’s “Sampler” offer round-ups and reflections on life in Hudson and Marlborough.
They include coverage of local awards, graduations, fundraisers, reunions and more.
“If you didn’t get in Mary Wenzel’s column, or Rosemary’s column, you didn’t exist,” former Enterprise editor Rick Lombardi remarked in a recent interview.
“She tells it like it is,” Wilkinson said of Rimkus. “She’s helpful, informative and always on the spot.”
Outside of the columns, there was the old hubbub of events like election day.
Now the owner of the Vin Bin liquor and cheese shop, Lombardi fondly recalls late nights following polling data and capturing statements from candidates as his team labored into the wee hours of the morning.
“That was just phenomenal,” he said. ”You had all the gadflies from town, all of them would come in, all of the candidates would come in, all the supporters would come into the newsroom. They would all be buzzing about and giving you information, giving you tips.”
“Main Street on election night was just alive,” he continued. “Everybody’s popping in City Hall. They’re going to the local bars where people had their parties. It was very exciting and you live for that. Then you get out in the morning, and everybody ran to see who won and what the numbers were and what precincts they won and that was thrilling.”
A national newspaper trend
The Hudson Sun and the Marlborough Enterprise aren’t the first newspapers to close in this manner. In fact, this news is but a part of a massive wave of closures that only sped up amid the economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locally, though, with one fewer paper in his community, Lombardi worries about the loss of the accountability and public service journalists and their publications provide.
“Where, where will the new generation go to get the things memorialized?” he asked. “Because when it was in the newspaper, it was memorialized.”
“I’m not saying that there is anything unusual going on,” he added in regards to the role of reporters as watchdogs over local government. “It’s just that it’s good to know. It’s good to know that there’s somebody watching.”
Papers to cease publication
According to a letter sent to Hudson Sun subscribers, remaining balances on subscriptions will be refunded within six weeks.
The MetroWest Daily News, meanwhile, will continue publishing and covering Hudson and Marlborough news as it does so.
“We hope you have enjoyed the Hudson Sun over the years,” Vice President of Customer Service and Subscriptions Jason Gurthrie wrote in that letter.
“We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your readership,” he added. “Thank you for supporting local journalism.”