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While virus spreads, news doesn't

Hammered by the COVID-19 crisis, The Gabber, a weekly newspaper serving Gulfport for more than 50 years, has shut down.

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  • | 10:28 a.m. April 9, 2020
The Gabber, a weekly paper serving Gulfport since 1968, has shuttered because of the COVID-19 economic crisis. Courtesy photo.
The Gabber, a weekly paper serving Gulfport since 1968, has shuttered because of the COVID-19 economic crisis. Courtesy photo.
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Restaurants, hotels and other hospitality enterprises aren’t the only businesses laying off staff and shutting down because of the COVID-19 crisis. Newspapers, facing precipitous drops in advertising, are also suffering.

The Tampa Bay Times and Creative Loafing in Tampa have laid off staff and, in the case of the Times, severely cut back on printing, delivering the paper to subscribers on just Wednesdays and Sundays. Gannett-owned daily newspapers in Lakeland, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples have also announced cutbacks and furloughs. 

In Gulfport, a city of 12,000 in southern Pinellas County, the situation is even more dire. The Gabber, a weekly that dates back to 1968, has shuttered indefinitely.

Ken and Deb Reichart have owned and operated The Gabber for the past 28 years. In a March 24 statement to readers, the Reicharts say they’ve decided to close up shop — for now.  

“As a newspaper supported solely through advertising, … we depend on local business,” they write. “But so many businesses are now in crisis mode. In these uncertain times, businesses everywhere are having to make difficult, sometimes unthinkable decisions. Our paper is no different.”

In an addendum to the March 24 statement, the paper says it cannot afford to continue as an online-only publication because of an inability to pay reporters and other staff members who would make that happen.

“This has been a truly unexpected turn of events,” the statement reads. “But the reality of a suddenly dwindling revenue stream means that we can no longer continue to print the paper, or to support our colleagues in bringing you news. And while we remain hopeful for a future where The Gabber can continue, we don’t know when that will be.”

In a voicemail greeting that plays when one calls the office, the Reicharts remain hopeful the paper will live to gab again — some day.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have suspended operations temporarily,” the greeting says. “We don’t know how long this is going to last, but we will be back.” 


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