Austria’s 319-year-old Wiener Zeitung newspaper will be leaving daily print circulation and going almost wholly online following a vote of the country’s parliament Thursday.
The Wiener Zeitung (roughly, “Vienna Times” in English) was founded as the Wiennerisches Diarium in 1703 as the official mouthpiece of the Habsburg emperors. The first issue was printed on Aug. 8 of that year.
It was given its current name in 1780, and ownership of it transferred to the Austrian state in 1857.
While the newspaper stopped being the official publication for Austrian laws and executive orders in 2004, it continues to be where the Austrian government prints legally required announcements, including company registrations and vacancies in the civil service.
Starting July 1, the daily newspaper will stop daily print circulation. While there will be at least ten printed papers per year depending on funds, the Wiener Zeitung’s official announcements, its primary source of revenue, will move entirely online.
“Some fear that the government just wants to keep the Wiener Zeitung brand with its 320-year-old history, while nobody knows what the future publication will look like — whether it will still be serious journalism,” Managing Editor Mathias Ziegler told the Agence France-Presse wire service.
The paper currently has a weekday circulation of around 20,000, and a weekend circulation of about 40,000.
There have been protests in Vienna arguing against the move, and Austria’s parliamentary opposition parties also denounced the measure.
Jorg Leichtfried, a member of the leading opposition party, called it “a black day for Austria’s media and national culture,” according to a Washington Times translation of the Wiener Zeitung done with computer assistance.
“The newspaper was passed on from generation to generation, this newspaper has documented more important events in the course of its history than any other,” Mr. Leichtfried, a member of the Social Democratic Party, said in a session of the Austrian parliament.
The ruling coalition in Austria consists of the populist People’s Party, of which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is a member, and the Greens, of which President Alexander Van der Bellen is a member.