Century-old Wakefield newspaper is shuttered

Published 1:47 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff writer

Three newspapers owned by Hermes Publications, including the Sussex-Surry Dispatch, laid off all employees on Friday as an apparent result of legal issues that date back to 2014.

Employees at The Monitor in Dinwiddie County, The Prince George Journal and Sussex-Surry received the news last week.

“It’s a tragic event for the employees and the communities they serve,” said Michael Campbell, digital media editor for Hermes Publications.

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Campbell tweeted about the layoffs on Sunday, saying he’d just found out about them.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Page Publications filed a civil suit against Hermes in Dinwiddie County Circuit court on Nov. 24, 2014. The contract dispute was set for a hearing in February, but was withdrawn.

Hermes bought the three papers from Page Publications in 2013, according to The Richmond Times Dispatch, which reported the owners of Page — Tom and Bobbi Page — were retiring after the sale. The couple started the Prince George Journal and later bought the other two papers.

 “Hermes Publications and Page Publications are involved in ongoing litigation, and we look forward to addressing these issues in court,” said Evan Jones, the publisher of the three papers.

He did not comment further.

The Sussex-Surry Dispatch had been in operation for more than 125 years.

When Jones first bought the papers he said he did not expect any major changes at any of the publications, according to Editor and Publisher. Jones has been working in journalism since he was 18, according to the Editor and Publisher report.

We are believers in the power of community journalism,” he told Editor and Publisher. “We believe in local newspapers and want to see local newspapers around the area and the state succeed.”

The Smithfield Times was working to obtain court documents relating to the dispute. Details of the charges and the court proceedings were not known at press time.

Page is represented by attorney James Thorsen and Hermes is represented by attorney Garrison Elder. Neither lawyer responded to a request to comment. {/mprestriction}