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Alaska to lose six rural newspapers next month

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Six small, rural newspapers in Alaska published by a Yupik Eskimo company are slated to go out of business next month, falling victim to rising costs of materials and operations.

Calista Corp, one of 12 regional Native corporations in the state, announced last Friday it plans to close and liquidate its Alaska Newspapers Inc subsidiary, along with the Native-themed magazine, First Alaskans.

The last publication date for the six newspapers, all weeklies, has yet to be determined, Calista spokesman Thom Leonard said this week, adding, "Right now, we're just focusing on our employees."

The chain employs 38 people, Leonard said. Workers will be provided opportunities for other jobs within Calista and offered assistance in making the transition, he said.

The chain's newspapers, averaging about 2,000 subscribers each, serve readers in Barrow and northwestern Alaska, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of southwestern Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay and the fishing ports of Cordova and Seward.

Calista owns a diversified portfolio of businesses, with subsidiaries involved in government contracting, engineering, oil-field services, construction and telecommunications. The company bought the struggling Alaska Newspapers chain in 1992.

Loss of the publications will leave a large void in the state, some prominent Alaskans said.

The newspaper chain was "a home for reporters who embraced the adventure of life in remote Alaska, covering stories by airplane, skiff, four-wheeler, snowmachine and even dog team," Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement.

"Their reporting also celebrated a side of Alaska life often overlooked by the state's urban residents," she said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton)

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