Island Sand Paper owners Bob and Missy Layfield regretfully announce that the business will definitely close after the July 10 issue. The closure includes the 20-year-old weekly Island Sand Paper newspaper, nine-year-old monthly SAND LIFE entertainment magazine, website fortmyersbeach.news and the company’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
First announced in the June 5 issue, the Layfields indicated they were willing to sell the newspaper. Though several individuals expressed interest, no viable offer was received.
The cause of the two decade old local paper’s demise was primarily the economic effects of COVID-19 on area businesses and the timing of those effects. In addition the owners have some Midwestern family with health issues and are nearing retirement age.
The last Island Sand Paper issue will be the July 10 issue. The last SAND LIFE issue was March 2020. The paper’s website and social media presence will continue through July, though no new original Sand Paper stories will be added.
Sand Paper articles are archived on NewsBank, which is available through libraries, and the Florida Digital Newspaper Library at ufdc.ufl.edu/fdnl1. The Fort Myers Beach Library has bound issues of the Sand Paper in their reference collection.
2001 – 2020
The first issue of the Island Sand Paper was published on February 9, 2001. From that first issue, the newspaper has focused on the Fort Myers Beach community, shining a spotlight on the people and stories that could be found between the Island’s two bridges and in the 33931 zip code area. The Layfields purchased the newspaper in May 2010 and set about revitalizing the publication so that it reflected the community it served – welcoming, eclectic, fact-based, unintimidated and straight-talking with just a touch of brass.
While competing with countless visitor guides, maps and regional publications, for their customers’ marketing dollars, the Sand Paper was the community’s leading source of news and information on Fort Myers Beach, not just the big topics of interest that other media occasionally covered, but the everyday small-town life items – church suppers, fundraisers, new library books, summer camps, school plays, service club news and events, new church pastors, local musicians, local history and new businesses.
The Sand Paper promised to provide coverage of local government meetings, and they did, no matter how long the meeting or mundane the agenda. From Town Council to Local Planning Agency to Library Board and Fire Board, the Sand Paper covered events that had an impact on residents and visitors of Fort Myers Beach. The final issue on July 10 will include a report on the July 8 Fire Board meeting. A promise is a promise.
The Layfields still strongly believe in the power of a local newspaper and are disappointed that no buyer was found to continue the Sand Paper legacy. As larger daily newspapers have suffered, small community newspapers like the Sand Paper have held their popularity with local readers. People are interested in what is happening in their community, right down the street. They want to know what their local government is doing and other hyper-local news. There are many sources for statewide and national news, but no other news source provides the breadth or depth of local news like a local newspaper can.
As a free newspaper, the Sand Paper was totally reliant on advertisers to cover the costs to provide the paper to readers for free. Readers were often encouraged to support local businesses, because without advertisers, the paper wouldn’t exist and that is exactly what happened. In a simplified explanation. Many advertisers are hurting enough that they can’t spend money on advertising. And so the Sand Paper won’t exist after July 10.
The Island Sand Paper was a member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE), Society of Professional Journalists, Florida First Amendment Foundation and Florida Press Association. Editor Missy Layfield would earn two Golden Dozen awards for editorial writing from ISWNE over her ten years at the helm of the editor’s desk.
Bob Layfield has served on the Board of Directors of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Chamber Business Referral Group, and serves as President of The Greater Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts, a local non-profit organization.
They will continue to live in Fort Myers Beach.
The Island Sand Paper parent company, Delta Latitude Inc, has registered Trademarks for Island Sand Paper, Sand Life Magazine, “”By Islanders, For Islanders” and other intellectual property it owns. Any uses of the Trademarks are strictly prohibited by law.