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The Suwannee Democrat in Live Oak, The Jasper News and The Mayo Free Press announced today they will merge with their sister south Georgia newspaper, the Valdosta Daily Times, effective immediately.

Jeff Masters, regional publisher of the newspapers, said the merger is in response to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to the level of revenue needed to operate the separate weekly newspapers.

Today’s Suwannee Democrat is the final edition of the paper and its website. The Jasper News and The Mayo Free Press will publish their final print edition and website content Thursday.

News, sports and advertising content from the communities will appear periodically in the Valdosta Daily Times and on its website and mobile app. The Valdosta paper publishes four print editions — Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Subscribers to the Live Oak, Jasper and Mayo papers can convert their subscriptions to the Valdosta Daily Times or request refunds by emailing this address: Questions about the merger can also be sent to the publisher’s attention at the email address.

Masters said the merger reflects the revenue crisis facing rural market newspapers that depend on local advertising support.

“The Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press are small businesses that, like other small businesses, have been hit very hard by COVID-19,” said Masters. “Their business model relies heavily on revenues generated from local advertising, and that revenue has fallen off precipitously.”

He also said the operating cost of maintaining print editions of the weeklies became increasingly hard to sustain due to major expenses associated with newsprint, ink, printing plates, press production and delivery.

“The mergers represent a necessary change to navigate through these difficult economic times,” said Masters. “What is not changing is our commitment to produce quality news, sports and advertising content in print and online at the Valdosta Daily Times.”

The Valdosta Daily Times and the three Florida weeklies are owned by CNHI, LLC, the community newspaper company based in Montgomery, Alabama.

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