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After 85 Years, The Evening Sun Sets

September 15, 1995

BALTIMORE (AP) _ With the push of a pressman’s button, The Evening Sun, the scrappy, irreverent newspaper where H.L. Mencken plied his trade, closed after 85 years Friday with a Baltimorese flourish: ``GOOD NIGHT, HON.″

Pressman Frank Novotny stopped the clattering of the presses shortly after noon. ``Goodnight, Evening Sun,″ said Novotny, 62, who retired with the paper he printed for 44 years.

Under a dozen black balloons, newsroom staffers turned out the last edition of Baltimore’s only afternoon paper.

``Today is kind of a memorial service,″ said Wiley Hall, an Evening Sun columnist who accepted a buyout offer.

``Thanks for a great 85 years; will you love us in the morning?″ the last edition asked. The headline across the front page was ``GOOD NIGHT HON.″

The shutdown, announced May 30, does not affect The Sun, the morning paper whose circulation has swelled to 264,500 since it was founded in 1837.

The evening paper had watched its circulation slide from a peak of 220,000 in 1960 to 86,000 this year.

Both papers are owned by Times Mirror Co. In 1992, the papers’ staffs merged.

``They closed the wrong damn paper,″ said Bill Burton, a former Evening Sun editor of 37 1/2 years who returned to say goodbye.

The newspapers have offered buyouts to 50 of their 1,765 employees.

The Evening Sun was owned by the A.S. Abell Co. until it was bought by Times Mirror in 1986.

In its early years, the paper forged an iconoclastic style that crystallized from 1910 to 1917, when Mencken wrote in favor of prostitution, alcohol and war and derided commoners as the ``booboisie.″

Among the paper’s alumni are NBC correspondent Gwen Ifill, ``Wall Street Week″ host Louis Rukeyser, ABC ``Wide World of Sports″ anchorman Jim McKay and New York Times political reporter Richard Berke.

On Monday, The Sun will introduce a redesigned, fatter morning paper.