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Boston Courant Shutters on Heels of Legal Loss

BOSTON (CN) - The largest-circulation weekly community newspaper in Boston will not publish a new issue this week, or ever again, after losing its appeal of a wrongful-termination case.

The Boston Courant, which covered the downtown neighborhoods of Boston since 1995 and boasted a weekly circulation of 40,000, announced its closure on the front page of the print-only newspaper's Feb. 5 edition.

"A former employee won a wrongful termination suit against the newspaper," a short article on the paper's demise states. "Given the legal fees and the amount of the judgment, it is no longer feasible for the paper to continue publishing."

The former employee in question, Kevin Smith, filed the suit in Suffolk Superior Court after the Boston Courant fired him in 2009.

Though the Courant said Smith failed to produce enough ad revenue in his first year on the job as vice president of sales, tasked with creating a new real estate section, Smith claimed that the newspaper never created the website it had promised, limiting his ability to sell ads to businesses that wanted an online presence.

Publisher David Jacobs said the Boston Courant could not go online without a feasible business model.

A jury ultimately found that the Boston Courant had violated its agreement by not creating a website, relieving Smith of his obligation of "reasonably acceptable performance."

Though the Boston Courant claimed on appeal that it never explicitly agreed to create a website, the paper was unable to persuade the court late last year.

"Courant argues on appeal that the agreement was unambiguous and that its express terms did not require that Courant develop a Web site," a three-judge appellate panel found. "However, Courant failed to preserve the issue for appeal."

Jacobs blamed the decision against his paper on the legal missteps.

"My trial attorney made many mistakes including not preserving evidence for appeal," Jacobs said in an email.

The Boston Courant was ordered to pay out the remaining two years of Smith's contract, which cost the paper about $248,000.

Although the paper never launched a website, a few years ago it tested the waters of having a web presence by creating a Twitter feed. The final tweet, sent out Monday, Feb. 8, was an electronic copy of its closure announcement.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of this article, Courthouse News reporter Zack Huffman, worked as a reporter for the Boston Courant from September 2012 to April 2015.

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