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May 2, 2018

Office-less Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise helped earn $5M profit for parent company

Photo | Google The Sentinel & Enterprise offices on Main Street in downtown Fitchburg were shut down by the paper's parent company in February.

Daily newspapers in Fitchburg and Lowell and a related weekly publication earned a $5-million profit and a 26-percent profit margin in the last budget year, according to a report by the Harvard University-affiliated NeimanLab.

The newspapers reached that profitability at a time when both newspapers have reduced staff and only months before the owners, Digital First Media, decided to close the Fitchburg newsroom of the Sentinel & Enterprise.

The Massachusetts publications, which also include the Nashoba Valley Voice weekly, earned a $5-million profit in the budget year ending June 30, according to Digital First financials obtained by the NeimanLab in a report published Monday. Those publications had revenue of $19 million, the report said.

Denver-based Digital First, also known as MediaNews Group, has been under fire by staff at its flagship Denver Post and others in the industry for its aggressive cost-cutting. The privately held company, owned by Alden Global Capital, earned a 17-percent profit margin overall.

In February, Digital First closed the Sentinel & Enterprise offices in Fitchburg, leaving journalists to work remotely. That move came just three months after its editor, Charles St. Amand, was laid off and amid outsourcing of its printing operations from Devens to Portsmouth, N.H.

The newspaper today has three news reporters and a single full-time photographer. It is now overseen by editors at its larger sister paper, The Sun of Lowell, where Nashoba Valley Voice is also based.

That same month, the chain bought the Boston Herald out of bankruptcy with a bid of nearly $12 million.

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