Poor Hudson County, N.J. -- squeezed between New York and Newark, a hard place for locally owned, independent department stores to develop. Most of them in Jersey City had given up by the 1920s, those in Bayonne and Hoboken never got any traction to last long. But there was one exception, in Union City, one of those towns no one has ever heard of that had more than 50,000 people -- the store of A. Holthausen Inc. on Bergenline Avenue. I know very little about Holthausen's; records of Union City are fragmentary. I do know that it was founded by Arend Holthausen and, after his death, was run by Valesko Hugo. Great names.
Holthausen's made it into the 1970s, when Union City went almost overnight to being Cuban and Dominican. Union City's daily newspaper, the Hudson Dispatch -- universally known as the Hudson Disgrace -- made it a little longer. Hudson County once had four daily newspapers; now it has only the down-to-its-last-20,000 subscribers Jersey Journal. But in addition to the Dispatch, the Bayonne Times and the Jersey Observer in Hoboken are but memories. Observer Highway in Hoboken does keep its memory alive, and the Jersey Journal is still located on Journal Square.
Hudson County had a problem -- its suburbs were New York's suburbs were Newark's suburbs. When people moved to the suburbs, they didn't take the Journal or Dispatch with them; in fact those papers didn't circulate in their new areas. So they picked up on the Bergen Record or the Star-Ledger or the Times. The newer residents of Hudson County were more heavily black and Hispanic. Were the Hudson County dailies too oriented toward their white readerships to adapt? Did the chain stores pull out of them because they didn't want Hudson County customers? It wasn't a lack of local news in the traditional sense, though; the Hudson County papers barely recognized the world outside the county existed. Hudson County has not been depopulated in the manner of Detroit; and in the last two decades lots of affluent people have moved into Jersey City and Hoboken and Weehawken. But it has been a daily newspaper graveyard. I'm sure it's all explainable, it's just more evidence that the problems of the newspaper business largely predate the Internet and some of its problems have nothing to do with it.