Eastern Group Publications shut down its six newspapers after nearly 40 years as a leading source of local information for Los Angeles’ Eastside communities, but the family-owned business said it is still considering offers from potential buyers

The oldest chain of Hispanic-owned bilingual newspapers in the U.S.  said Thursday that it had not found a viable buyer and that it was ceasing publication of the Eastside Sun, Northeast Sun, Bell Gardens Sun, Montebello Comet, Commerce Comet, and Vernon Sun newspapers, as well as its online page egpnews.com.

“After several months of unsuccessfully fielding offers and inquiries, a new torchbearer has not materialized,” publisher Dolores Sánchez and managing editor Gloria Sánchez Álvarez wrote in an editorial. “So, after much contemplation, we mark the end of an era today, with this our final issue.”

In an interview Friday, Álvarez said the family decided to sell the business last year following the deaths of her stepfather Jonathan Sánchez, in December of 2016, and her brother Joe Sánchez in March.

Jonathan had co-founded the business with her mother in 1979 and was co-publisher and CEO and Joe, who ran a successful beverage distribution company, was an acting CFO.

“We lost two key members of our team within a couple of months of each other,” said Sánchez, who ran the editorial side of the business with her mother. “Losing them made a difference on the whole operation, both emotionally and financially. After a lot of soul searching, the family came together and we decided it was time to move on.”

“My mother is going to be 82 and has put in 40 years doing this, and it’s time for a break. I think we’re all exhausted.”

In 1979, Dolores and Jonathan Sánchez joined other Eastside business owners to purchase the Eastside Sun, which had been publishing since 1945. Together they grew the company into an 11-newspaper chain. In 2015, the Mexican-American Sun, ELA Brooklyn-Belvedere Comet, Wyvernwood Chronicle and Monterey Park Comet were folded into the Sun.

They were pioneers in the bilingual English and Spanish format, though Álvarez said they picked and chose the more relevant stories to translate.

“From the very beginning, we sought out stories that nobody else was covering,” she said. “We very much wanted to give voice to the community.”

Tributes to EGP and the Sánchez family began pouring in last week when word started getting out about the impending announcement.

Democratic Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, whose 40th district  represents practically all of EGP’s circulation area, called the closure a  “deeply felt loss for our communities.”

“EGP’s record as a reliable news source has been a boon to our neighborhoods and to our public discourse,” Roybal-Allard wrote in an opinion piece. “After reading the work of EGP for decades, it will be difficult to get accustomed to a world where we no longer have its insightful reporting and commentary.”

Dolores Sanchez and her family have used this paper for the better good for nearly four decades,” wrote Councilman José Huízar in a statement. “They called out inequities, corruption, and acted as community advocates and protectors. And when we had victories, big or small, they had the cultural understanding and neighborhood context to tell our stories in a way only a dedicated community paper could.”

Álvarez said that part of EGP’s success was based on the newspaper chain’s ability to hire reporters and freelancers who lived in the communities they covered.

“They had insight that somebody reporting from the outside didn’t have, and that made a big difference,” she said, adding that many former staff members are currently working in larger news media outlets around the country.

Jacqueline García, a reporter at La Opinión, said that her earlier years at EGP helped her recognize the importance of so-called hyper-local news to underserved communities such as East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.

“We always talk about what is going on with the president, but we don’t realize that change starts in the community,” García said. “At EGP I learned that going to a neighborhood meeting is what brings change. Going to speak at your child’s school, that’s what makes things change.”

Álvarez said the family decided to stop publishing the newspapers in spite of the fact that they were still negotiating with a potential buyer, but that the website would continue to publish for at least two more weeks.  

But she said that last week’s announcement produced renewed interest in the company, including new offers the family will now consider.

“Our hope is that the newspaper is not gone,” she said. “It may be gone with us as a face, but we’re hoping it’s not [completely] gone. Everyday we’ve been praying that someone is going to step up, there’s going to be some interest to keep it going. Hopefully one of these offers will pan out.”

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Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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