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The Statesman story: A legendary Austin newspaper faces stormy times

The history of Austin’s daily newspaper dates to a time when only 35,000 people lived in the city.

AUSTIN, Texas — The story of Austin American-Stateman and how it started is as interesting and colorful as the city where it all began. The predecessor of the Statesman was founded as a three-times-a-week publication called the Democratic Statesman in 1871. The paper was originally allied with the Texas Democratic party during Reconstruction, following the Civil War. In 1873, it became a daily newspaper.

A rival paper, the morning Austin American, began in 1914. Five years later, Waco-based newspapermen Charles E. Marsh and E.S. Fentress bought the American in 1919 and the Evening Statesman in 1924. The morning and evening editions of the papers were published separately during the week, except on Sundays when they were combined into one morning edition.

Cox Enterprises bought the Statesman in 1976. In 2008, Cox put the Statesman up for sale. But a year later, the company pulled the paper off the market, saying it had not received any suitable offers.

In 2018, the sale of the Statesman to Gatehouse Media from Cox Media Group was announced. In August 2019, New Media Investment Group, the parent entity of Gatehouse Media, bought the Gannett newspaper chain, now the paper’s official owner.

The digital revolution has hurt the traditional newspaper business across the country. According to Axios, in 2010, daily print circulation for the Statesman was 136,980. By 2022, it was down to 26,455. Gannett reports that digital subscriptions have grown across the newspapers that it owns.

Newspapers – like magazines and TV – all face challenges these days because of online competition for ad dollars and eyeballs. But newspapers have been hit especially hard, as the Statesman and newspapers across the country struggle to find their place in the media landscape of 2023.

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