Elizabethtown's thriving business community wasn't the lure that first drew Dan Robrish's attention.

Robrish, an 11-year veteran of the Associated Press in Philadelphia, was looking for a likely community to start his own weekly newspaper. Elizabethtown fit the bill - in part because of its convenient rail service.

"I gave up my car about 10 years ago, because I used it so seldom," he said. "The battery would just die."

Even the ability just to visit Elizabethtown and scope out the community was a factor, he said. The busy railroad station a few blocks from the town square made it easy to get around.

"I am buying a car," said Robrish, who lives in Philadelphia but plans to move to Elizabethtown. "Maybe tomorrow."

Mass transit aside, Robrish, 38, said Elizabethtown is ripe for the venture.

"It's got a diversified economy," he said, citing major local presences, including the Masonic Village, Mars Snackfoods and Elizabethtown College, as well as "quite a few small, independent businesses in town."

The Elizabethtown Chronicle, the borough's community newspaper for 140 years, closed earlier this year after its parent corporation, Journal Register Co., filed for bankruptcy.

The Columbia Ledger and Donegal Ledger also folded. The Solanco Sun Ledger and Parkesburg Post, also JRC holdings, closed a month earlier. The Hershey Chronicle was saved from the block when it was purchased by another publisher.

Robrish said he plans to launch the Elizabethtown Advocate in late January.

The paper will probably publish on Thursdays, he said, although a final decision is still pending.

The Advocate will launch as a six-page broadsheet that will grow as it builds a core of advertisers, Robrish said.

It will boast a "very traditional look," he said.

"I'm the sort of guy who won't go out without a hat on. A newsman's fedora - I'm that traditional. The newspaper will reflect that."

The demise of countless newspapers around the country doesn't faze Robrish.

"There are plenty of smaller towns out there with weekly newspapers. There are towns with fewer than 1,000 that have a weekly paper," he said. "I see no reason why a town of 12,000 can't sustain one.

"I'm really more concerned about my own abilities as a businessman than I am about the state of economy. The papers that are really hurting are the metropolitan papers. The smaller they are, the better they're doing."

That's because more people are going online for their world and national news, Robrish said, but consistent local reporting is "something people only can get from a community paper."

That's why, among other things, he plans to publish a column of short blurbs, or "personal news."

"It will be similar to Facebook updates. It used to be a common practice for newspapers to do this sort of thing," he said.

"I wouldn't want it to degenerate into a gossip column. It will be personal items that people think their neighbors will find interesting."

To start, Robrish said he will be the sole full-time staff member for the Advocate. He will hire correspondents for sports and some news coverage, he said, and he is working with local photographers to provide pictures.

He does not have an office location yet, he said.

Before working for the Associated Press, Robrish was employed by the Pottstown Mercury, the Journal of New Ulm in Minnesota and the Ely Daily Times in Nevada.

"I've long been interested in running my own newspaper," he said. "I've had a good run at the AP, but this is really a chance to get out there on my own and grow.

"I also really miss the connection you have with your readers with a small-town newspaper."

tknapp@lnpnews.com