By Zach Dyer
Costa Rica’s oldest English-language newspaper, The Tico Times, announced on its website that it would stop publishing its print edition as of Friday, Sept. 28. The Associated Press reported that the 56-year-old newspaper laid off its entire 16-person staff on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and will restructure its business into an online-only publication.
Editor David Boddiger told the AP that the newspaper’s staff are working as volunteers to maintain The Tico Times’ website during the restructuring period. The proposed business model for the newly online publication will be based on advertisements and donations, said the newspaper on its website.
“This is a decision we were forced to make due to costs of distribution, printing, paper and production. Needs are changing and people want more; they use technology and aren’t interested in the print newspaper,” said Tico Times Business Manager Olman Chacón, according to the website.
The acclaimed newspaper is an unlikely casualty of the collapse of the United States’ housing market. The Tico Times’ print edition reached its heyday between 2005 and 2007, flush with real estate advertisements aimed at foreign tourists during the housing boom, said the newspaper. Boddiger told the AP that when the housing market crashed the newspaper's advertisers disappeared and The Tico Times was unable to recover the lost advertising revenue.
Tico Times publisher Dery Dyer wrote a open letter to the newspaper’s readers admitting a “lack of long-term vision and a series of fatal decisions,” along with the challenges of running a newspaper in the digital era caused the print edition’s demise.
A statement from the newspaper also cited Dyer’s reputation for resisting change and technology as another reason for the Times inability to adapt to a fluctuating market.
The Tico Times is not going down without a fight. The newspaper launched a fundraising campaign to raise $10,000 by Oct. 30 to maintain the website and other critical operation during the restructuring.
“We had hoped we could save the print edition, but we failed,” Dyer said. “This is now where we’re going to focus our efforts [online]. We want to continue some form of The Tico Times, and we think we still have a lot to offer.”
The Tico Times started in 1956 as a student newspaper under the guidance of Elisabeth "Betty" Dyer, mother of publisher Dery Dyer, at the Lincoln School in San José, the capital. The Times grew into the leading English-language publication in Central America and became an exemplar for environmental and investigative reporting, according to the newspaper La Nación and The Tico Times.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.