When Mary Kate Leming found herself among the 300 Palm Beach Post employees who lost their jobs in a sweeping downsizing in 2008, she enacted an unlikely Plan B, taking out a home equity credit line to start a print newspaper. After 22 years at the Post, she didn’t want to leave journalism yet, and she and her husband, also a newspaper exile, saw a need in their own community for professional news coverage.
She never thought the plan would work as well as it has.
Leming and her husband, Jerry Lower, a photographer who was laid off from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, started The Coastal Star, a monthly paper that covers nine beachfront towns in southern Palm Beach County. The couple expected the endeavor to maybe last five years, a fun jaunt in which they hopefully wouldn’t lose too much money.
They’ve exceeded that initial goal. Last month the Coastal Star, which, in addition to Lower and Leming, has a full-time ad manager, moved into a larger office space, right around the time the paper won 13 awards from the Florida Press Association, including seven first places. Last year the paper, which has a circulation of 18,000, spent $343,000 on local freelancers, many of them reporters, photographers, salespeople, and designers who were similarly exiled from area dailies, Lower said. And the couple has paid back the $150,000 home loan that covered their startup costs. Leming and Lower found a niche that actually could support a new print newspaper.