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For folks in southwestern Riverside County, it was the first Sunday without their local newspaper — The Californian.

With the purchase of the North County Times in September 2012, the U-T San Diego also acquired The Californian, which was published for the communities in the Murrieta, Temecula, and Wildomar areas. Since September, the U-T published a daily local section with community news and sports under The Californian masthead, combined with the regular edition of the U-T.

On Tuesday, May 27, U-T San Diego stopped publishing The Californian section. Folks in North San Diego County also lost the last remnant of the former North County Times with the disappearance of their “North County Local” section.

Roberta and Barry

Roberta and Barry

Over at Mo’s Egg House, a popular breakfast spot on Jefferson Avenue in Temecula, on Sunday morning, June 2, diners Roberta and Barry were reading their home-delivered U-T, as they do every Sunday morning. “I miss the first page being local news,” said Roberta. “I might as well pick up the New York Times or the L.A. Times.”

“It’s too San Diego–oriented,” said Barry. “We knew this was going to happen, but we’re disappointed,” he added. Roberta said she misses “The Back Page” most — a daily feature of wacky news stories in The Californian/North County Times.

Down the road at Penfold’s Café and Bakery, retired Marine Jake had just sat down and opened his U-T. He said The Californian was the first paper he picked up when he moved to Temecula 25 years ago. “It was all the news I needed.” Jake said he’ll switch to the Press-Enterprise, a Riverside-based paper that caters to all of Riverside County.

Dwayne had just purchased his Sunday U-T from a newspaper stand outside Penfold’s. He said he used to get both the U-T and The Californian. While he enjoys the U-T’s sports section and the in-depth national stories, he said he already misses “the personalization of The Californian for Temecula.”

At the 7-Eleven off Highway 79 South/Temecula Parkway, clerk Navi said the Sunday U-T seems to still be selling, while next door at Carl’s Jr., the L.A. Times and Press-Enterprise racks were empty by 8:00 a.m.; several copies of the U-T were still available.

Though the publishing of a newspaper with decades of name recognition has ceased, the U-T’s marketing people stated the U-T brand has a strong presence in southern Riverside County. Other San Diego–based businesses that have Temecula-area locations (i.e., banks and restaurants) have previously pointed out that the small-town Temecula/Murrieta area grew in the past three decades to a 250,000+ community, primarily from a northward migration of San Diegans looking for cheaper housing.

An estimated 20 remaining employees, columnists, and reporters of The Californian/North County Times were let go last week with the loss of the local sections.

Unofficial circulation figures show The Californian/North County Times lost almost 40,000 subscribers over the past decade, which follows the trend of most metro and suburban daily newspapers.

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Bob McPhail June 5, 2013 @ 7:21 p.m.

A sad turn of events for North County residents. I can remember when there was a glut of newspapers in the region -- with dailies and weeklies in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Escondido, San Marcos, Del Mar, Fallbrook, etc. There was even a paper called the Mobilehome Courier, and a separate organization for professional journalists -- the North County Press Club. It was a robust environment with a lot of competition, which served the public well.


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