It seems "end of an era" stories are becoming more common.
This one is happening in five Kern County communities, simultaneously.
Reed Print Inc., which has been in operation in one form or another since 1939, is closing its doors — even as 2017 is coming to a close.
For decades, the longtime family-owned media company has published the weekly newspapers the Arvin Tiller; Lamont Reporter; Shafter Press; Wasco Tribune; and Delano Record.
But by Dec. 28, they will be no more.
"It is with sincere sadness that I inform you that as of 12-14-17 the publishers have decided to close their newspaper and printing business. Our last publication will be 12-28-17," Reed's Office Manager and Legal Clerk Diane Givens wrote in an email to a longtime advertiser in Delano.
Givens names the five publications in her email, and continued: "These publications will cease to print at the end of this year."
Reached Monday morning, Company President Frank Wallace "Wally" Reed declined to comment on the news, saying only that he might be willing to talk after the closure is complete.
According to the company's Facebook page, Reed Print also specialized in four-color printing of brochures, newsletters, tabloids, circulars, sports and special events programs, school and church bulletins, posters, and miscellaneous office documents, such as checks, letterheads and envelopes.
Wally Reed was unwilling to discuss how many employees will be affected by the closure. But one employee, a longtime reporter for the Arvin and Lamont papers, guessed there are seven or eight who will be affected, maybe more.
"We are closing our doors. The 20th is the last issue for Lamont and Arvin, and Wasco, Shafter and Delano close the 27th," said Toni DeRosa, who has reported on and off for the Arvin and Lamont papers for several years.
"We are all looking for jobs," she said.
DeRosa said she heard about the coming closure last week from a co-worker, but as of Monday, she still hadn't been informed by the Reeds.
"The owners have not said anything to me."
The coverage by the papers is "hyper-local," DeRosa said. "A lot of what they want is the small community news — What are the Girl Scouts doing? What are the Boy Scouts doing? What's happening in Arvin High School football?"
School news is a big piece, including the "We the People" academic competition, in which Arvin High has excelled for years.
Scott Hurlbert, the city manager in Shafter, said he believes small-town newspapers like the Shafter Press and the other weeklies help with "community building," giving residents a stronger sense that they're all part of the same whole.
"The kid gets to see his picture in the paper," Hurlbert said. "His parents get to see his picture in the paper."
There are also practical considerations. The city published legal notices or job openings every week in the Press.
"There is also an advertising hit here," he said. Local businesses such as an insurance agent, hardware store and convenience store will have to find another local home for their ads. Or go without.
Jim Lawitz, Californian executive editor and vice president, said he was saddened to hear of Reed's pending closure. When a media outlet closes, he said, it's often a blow to the community it serves — and it can be unhealthy for democracy itself.
"Anytime a paper closes its doors, that's another avenue of local news and information that is lost," Lawitz said. "It can be a huge loss to a community."
For DeRosa, the loss isn't just financial.
"I love my job," she said. Despite the hard work, despite the pay.
But when Wally Reed's son, Donald, died in 2014, it seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the business.
According to Don's obituary, while he was involved with the company, Reed Print expanded from the Arvin Tiller to the addition of the other four papers. "He was instrumental," it said, "in building a modern printing plant and conversion to desktop publishing."
DeRosa said she enjoyed working with Don Reed, calling him one of the best bosses she's ever had. Both men "allowed me the freedom to go at my own pace and trusted me to cover the important stories.
"All in all," she said, "I will really miss this job."