The Hook is being shut down by its parent company, in a decision that is disappointing, although surely not shocking. That leaves C-Ville Weekly, owned by the same company, as the city’s sole weekly. The final issue will be published on September 26.
The Hook debuted thirteen years ago, only three weeks after an acrimonious split between the three owners of C-Ville Weekly drove owner Hawes Spencer to start his own paper. Nine years later, the two publications’ owners decided to join up again, with time and experience having mellowed the former competitors. At the time of the merger, owner Bill Chapman denied plans to eliminate staffing redundancies. Finally, last December, Hook editor Hawes Spencer sold his shares and stepped down, with Courteney Stuart taking his place. (The first comment after that story was prescient: “Cue the Cville gutting the Hook in 2013 by summer if not sooner.”)
Both of the papers have maintained distinctly different identities. Post-split, The Hook quickly took on the role of news publication, while C-Ville Weekly focused more on the arts and soft news. In this way, they managed to enlarge the overall news market, so that both could have room to exist. When the two papers came under the same umbrella again two years ago, it was logical to keep both publications, since—anecdotally—each had their own fans and detractors, and presumably likewise differing bases of advertisers. If today’s news is any indicator, that simply proved not to be true. Or, at least, the benefits of maintaining two competing brands were outweighed by the cost and redundancies of maintaining two publications.
Questions remain. What will become of Hook staff: reporters, back-office staff, and ad sales? Will C-Ville Weekly expand its coverage to include the hard news that The Hook provided, or as a community will we simply lose that? When will C-Ville Weekly become a twice-weekly publication? And what of The Hook’s website? There are 12 years of vital, historically significant news coverage there, available to anybody using Google. The loss of that archive—like the once-deep web-based archives of The Cavalier Daily, WINA, and The Observer—would be terrible. What’s the plan to maintain that?
5:45 PM Update: In a statement, the company says that “several key members of The Hook’s team will remain,” that they’ll be moving publication from Monday to Wednesday, and touts that the combined circulation of 25,000 will give them the largest circulation in Charlottesville.