It's been close to five years since Youngstown's newspaper, The Vindicator, was printed for the last time after 150 years as the Valley's trusted news source.

Now, one local newspaper that covers a few towns in Mahoning County will publish its last issue next week.

People living in Struthers, Campbell, Lowellville, Poland, and Coitsville have relied on the Hometown Journal for close to a century. Originally named The Journal, the first publication rolled off the press in 1928.

Renamed the Hometown Journal after Nancy Johngrass took the reigns in 2006, their mission remained offering positive local news coverage on the community and school systems. The newspaper was a weekly publication, costing a $23-$27 annual subscription fee. 

"When you see an article in the paper, you talk with a neighbor, "Oh, did you see this in the paper? Did you see this? We didn't know this was happening and it was in the journal," explained Michael Patrick, Council President with the City of Struthers. He said the paper created a stronger community bond.

"We absolutely loved it because it brought a lot of highlights and recognition to our city," said Cat Cercone Miller, Mayor of Struthers. "Nancy had a way of highlighting the good and bringing smiles to people's faces."

"I enjoy getting the stories and meeting people and having a good time behind the camera," said Frank Marr, a longtime volunteer photographer for the Hometown Journal and the City of Struthers. 

But Johngrass told 21 News it's "the sign of the times," struggling to keep the beloved newspaper afloat.

"Our business cards were up to about 30 a page, and now we have three," Johngrass told 21 News. "We're just down to skeleton crew ads, and it's just not enough."

The paper relied heavily on advertisements, and many businesses have either moved on or closed. The newspaper once had an office space in Downtown Struthers. Now, Nancy works out of her home in Lowellville. She said ever since COVID-19, the funds just haven't been as high. Nancy calls herself one with many hats and also has a page designer and Frank Marr, who photographs for the paper for free. 

"Our subscribers are the most loyal subscribers around," Johngrass said. "It just came down to declining advertising, and it's just time to close. It's very bittersweet."

"It's sad because the journal made a lot of personal touch of what's going on in people's lives," Patrick added.

With a strong profit margin unattainable, Johngrass knew it was time. She announced the final publication earlier this month. The community now giving their thanks to a paper that gave so much to the towns it covered.

"I saved a lot of the older ones," Patrick said while sifting through old copies. "I still like reading the paper. I gotta have it in the morning reading it."

"You sometimes just have to have that copy in your hands, and that's going to be a big disappointment for a lot of people who rely on that newspaper," Mayor Cercone Miller added.

"I don't know how many businesses can say that their readers thank them and praise their hard work," Johngrass said. "They just love the paper."

Johngrass plans to retire when the paper shuts down operations.  

The last issue of the Hometown Journal will be published February 1, 2024.