Jamestown newspaper battle becomes personal

Mon, 01/24/2005 - 6:00am

Jamestown newspaper battle becomes personal By Read KingsburyThe battle between the 15-year-old community newspaper of record, the Jamestown Press, and the 15-month-old 02835: The Jamestown Journal suddenly became personal earlier this month when the 02835 publisher wrote that the Press publisher, who once owned the Block Island Times, was playing hardball because she had dumped him after a 12-year "personal relationship."

Other than a brief account of picnic trysts in a park, Ellen Mary McDonagh of 02835 revealed little about the alleged relationship with Jeffrey McDonough of the Press. McDonough has owned the Press since 1991; he purchased the Block Island Times from Peter Wood in 1996 and sold it to Bruce Montgomery in 1999.

McDonagh wrote her article, she told the Providence Journal, "to set the record straight… I started hearing that I was a scorned lover and he dumped me." She broke off the relationship in August 2003, she insists, and two months later started 02835, not as a personal vendetta, but the realization of a "lifelong dream," in the Journal's words.

The Jamestown newspapers, both of which are mailed free to island households, have competed for advertising and letters and especially for the town's legal notice business, which grossed almost $19,000 for the Press in 2003 and more than $25,000 in 2002, according to the Providence Journal.

Last March the 02835 entered a bid of $4.85 per inch for the business, well under the rates the Press had been charging, but the Press surprisingly bid $0 and retained its status as the town's paper of record.

McDonagh's motivation for going personal and public was that "I just wanted people to stop talking about me," but in the streets and shops of Jamestown her words have had the opposite effect, the Journal reported.

At the Press, the policy is strictly "no comment."