NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The Independent Press newspaper, a local news staple since the 1960s, will publish its last weekly hard copy edition on May 27, according to multiple sources.

Paul Provost, vice president of local market operations for NJ Advance Media, confirmed that the May 27 edition will be the final one for the Independent Press.

"It is a big loss to the community...The entire news industry is changing and it is inevitable that smaller newspapers will disappear. However, during its heyday the Independent Press provided residents with stories that other papers would miss," Independent Press reporter Marianne Ivers said. "I have enjoyed covering local news stories for the past 12 years. I am especially grateful for my mentor Barbara Rybolt. I learned a lot from her. I would also like to thank all readers who never hesitated to bring interesting story ideas to my attention or call me when they did not get their weekly delivery of the Independent Press."

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According to Mike Kelly, former editor and publisher of the Independent Press for more than 30 years, the newspaper was started by Helen Vance Levenson as a free publication for shoppers.

"It started in Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights, extended into Long Hill Township (then known as Passaic Township), then Chatham Township, Millburn, Chatham Borough and Madison," Kelly said. "The circulation was approximately 45,000."

The Independent Press was delivered for free to residents of the aforementioned towns, until more recently when the Star-Ledger included it with its home deliveries.

"The Independent Press was free circulation," Kelly said. "It was financed only through advertising sales. It was one of the most successful free newspapers in the state and beyond. To actually have a free newspaper that had an editorial staff that generated news coverage, that was very unusual and it succeeded for decades."

New Providence Mayor Al Morgan was not surprised to hear about the turn of events at the Independent Press.

"You look at the hardcopy Independent Press and it had only one story from New Providence in it. Online news is definitely the wave of the future and electronic media is where it is at,” Morgan said.

The fate of the Independent Press mirrors that of several other hardcopy local newspapers that have recently ceased publication.  Packet Publications, which owns several newspapers in Burlington, Hunterdon, Mercer and Monmouth Counties ceased publishing several of its newspapers in April and May, including the South Brunswick Post, the Beacon (Lambertville, New Hope, Stockton, Amwell), the Hamilton Observer, the Lawrence Ledger, the Manville News, the Messenger Press (Upper Freehold, Plumsted, Allentown), and the Register News (Florence, Bordentown, Mansfield).

"You hate to see institutions leave but it's part of the future. There's not much you can do about it. We all knew this was coming. The Independent Press and the Dispatch were a part of New Providence's history, ever since I can remember," Morgan said. 

Berkeley Heights Mayor Robert Woodruff recalled the competition that the Independent Press had with other local newspapers when it started.

"There was the Dispatch and the Summit Herald that were put out by the same paper and then you had the Independent Press," Woodruff said. "Each of them had to be good because they were competing against each other. The Independent Press started in '64-65. The Dispatch was already around. Two local papers, plus the Elizabeth Daily Journal covered the county…. People now go to online local news sites to get their news.

"Overall, you have to go back to the purpose of the press -- the purpose of the press to a large extent was to address issues, political and social issues. To hold elected officials accountable where appropriate.”

Berkeley Heights business owner and Vice-Chairman of the Suburban Chamber of Commerce Dr. Pat Smith of Smith Chiropractic recalls the days when the Independent Press was the place to go for local news.

"When I started 26 years ago in Berkeley Heights we were doing yellow pages and the Independent Press was the go to place for local news," Smith said. "Over the years it has been waning and the local coverage hasn't been as strong.  Online local news has certainly filled the void as far as local content. Other papers, like The Star Ledger for example, are shells of what they used to be.

"They don't nearly have the coverage they used to. The trend is in that direction. People are looking up their news online. They get what they need, they stay in contact via email now and eblasts. That is more and more main stream, it is understandable. It is progress."

NJ Advance Media and The Star-Ledger repeatedly declined to comment on Monday and also declined on Monday to confirm or deny that the Independent Press would cease hardcopy publication and would not provide an official statement. 

Updated Tuesday at 3:02 p.m.:

On Tuesday afternoon, Provost responded by phone regarding the plan for "Ledger Local."

"On June 4, we will be publishing 'Ledger Local,' which will provide weekly coverage for the same seven towns," Provost said on Tuesday afternoon. "It has nothing to do with The Star-Ledger at all. It will be delivered separately."

According to Provost, "Ledger Local" will include the same content and advertising that was provided by the Independent Press. It will be a free delivery.