A Watchdog Loses Its Bark: YSU Community Reacts to The Vindicator’s Closing

By Brianna Gleghorn

Paul Sracic was traveling to Youngstown when he discovered The Vindicator, which provided him with valuable information on his future hometown. 

“When I first flew into Youngstown for my interview for the job [at Youngstown State University], I remember on the plane there was a newspaper …  and it was The Vindicator,” Sracic, the chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations, said. 

According to him, The Vindicator was a much-needed watchdog for the local government as the Youngstown area is well-known for corruption.

“It’s just unfortunate that we always seem to make the national news for the wrong reasons,” Sracic said.

During a time of transition for the media culture in Youngstown, YSU faculty and students are naturally affected by the ever-changing times. 

According to Mary Beth Earnheardt, there can be no replacement for what The Vindicator has provided for the community.

“A part of the identity of the city is going to be lost by this, but Youngstown’s resilient; they’ve come back from a lot of bad things in a good way,” Earnheardt, director of the Anderson Program in Journalism, said. 

She said while the newspaper is important for informative reasons, it also brings value to its readers by supporting the community.

“I want my kids to grow up in a house where every morning there is a print newspaper coming in,” Earnheardt said. “I think it signals something to them about the importance of community engagement and being a part of the world around you and a good citizen of the world.”

She said it was hard to process the idea of the The Vindicator closing being true. 

“I thought in some place in my head that maybe it wasn’t true and that there was going to be a sell,” Earnheardt said.

While it was expected by some who work in the field, this expectation didn’t lessen the hurt readers felt.

YSU President Jim Tressel read The Vindicator every morning in his office.

“It was kind of the heartbeat all year-round of what was happening in our Valley,” he said.

Tressel said the coverage from the paper not only showed what the university did well but also what it struggled with.

“I used to always tell my football kids that, you know, you can make the front page when you do great things, but you can also make the front page when you don’t,” he said. “So, you better make sure that you’re making the front page for the right reasons.”

For Lori Factor, director of community engagement and events at YSU, reading The Vindicator was second nature for her throughout her childhood and in her personal and academic life.

“I have fond memories of reading the paper every day, watching my dad read it, plus I was The Vindicator Spelling Bee champ in 1977,” she said. “I went to Washington D.C. and competed, proudly representing Youngstown. While I did not win, the experience has stayed with me for a lifetime.”

According to Factor, the current and upcoming news outlets in the area won’t miss a beat and will keep Youngstown citizens on their toes.

“I am very confident that we will provide news releases to current contacts as well as to cultivate our new contacts so that information gets out to the public, and our attendance at events will be as robust as ever,” she said. 

Factor said those concerned about how to navigate upcoming performances in Bliss Hall should not be alarmed.

“Those who enjoy a print delivery will have that information, while those who prefer social media or digital news will be able to find information there,” she said. “We will monitor this to see if we have to make changes, and adjust accordingly.”

Jessica Weetman, a junior political science major, was raised in the Youngstown area and grew up seeing the paper scattered around her house.

“Seeing The Vindicator close brings up bittersweet feelings. It is always sad to see something from my childhood come to a close,” Weetman said.

Weetman’s parents delivered the newspaper for years, and her family would occasionally help their parents out on deliveries.

“The Vindicator was a big part of my family,” Weetman said. “Not just throwing the paper, but the excitement to look at the thick stack of Christmas ads in the Thanksgiving edition, the semi-funny cartoons, and when I was in the paper growing up, I felt like some big-time celebrity.”

Weetman said the paper gave a big voice to those who felt small in Youngstown.

Additional reporting by Rachel Gobep and Amanda Joerndt.