By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 4/07/20 (Tue)
Some interesting things have been going on in North Dakota newspapers in the past several months.
The biggest, of course, was when the Dickinson Press, which had been a daily newspaper since long before any of us can remember, switched to a weekly format.
Most of us who are part of newspapers were scratching our heads trying to figure that one out. It would be easy to blame a corporate structure for the change, but in this case, Forum Communications of Fargo is the owner.
That was a major decision by the Forum and only time will tell if it works or not. It just seems surprising that a growing city of 22,000 would drop to a weekly format.
That follows earlier developments in which the Jamestown Sun, also a Forum newspaper and the Dickinson Press, changed their format to five days.
The Minot Daily News and the Grand Forks Herald have both gone to six day-a-week publications instead of seven and have laid off some staff.
The Valley City Times-Record and Devils Lake Daily Journal are now three-day a week newspapers.
Also in recent months, Country Media sold two of its three county publications to Jill Friesz of the Grant County News and Carson Press. As a result, the Adams County Record and New England Herald continue publishing while the Dunn County Herald in Killdeer is now part of history.
A year ago the Metigoshe Mirror ceased publication and prior to that, the state hadn’t lost a paper since the Berthold Tribune was purchased by The Kenmare News in 1985.
In the past two years, the Belle Fourche Bee and Meade County Times in South Dakota were both purchased by the Rapid City Journal to pick up official county status, and the Moose Jaw Times-Herald in a Saskatchewan city of 34,000, ceased publishing after 127 years.
Ironically, the McKenzie County Farmer in Watford City has grown so much that owner Neil Shipman has mentioned bumping his paper up to a daily.
This appears to be a slippery slope, but there are some things we need to remember regarding our state’s newspapers.
First, the Dickinson Press dropped from five to one day so that it could preserve a presence of journalism in Dickinson and Stark County. We’re not sure what that means internally, but publicly, it means there will always be a newspaper in Dickinson.
It is suspected that’s the same reason Valley City and Devils Lake went to a three-day format.
Had it not been for Jill Friesz, three county weeklies would have lost their presence. Fortunately, two of them were saved and continue without interruption.
The Grand Forks Herald dropped its Monday edition, but the Minot Daily News phased out Sunday, which may have been a mistake.
People like to read their newspaper on Sunday morning and go through the inserted advertisements for the week. Combining that with Saturday is questionable at best.
Regardless of what is happening, newspapers don’t exist just for a guy like me to have a desk job, or for Jill Friesz to say she owns four newspapers or for the Jamestown Sun to say it continues a daily presence.
There’s a reason for newspapers. We all have to remember they are an expositor of news, sports, legal documents, society, coming events obituaries and history.
Remember especially legal and history. If a newspaper ceases to exist, who prints obituaries, where do the legal notices go and you can be rest assured history of that community will disappear as well.
The public has to remember that as giddy as we all are about Facebook, it doesn’t record history, nor is it an official document. Fifty years from now when someone wants to look up an obituary or a basketball tournament, they most likely won’t find it because there wouldn’t have been a newspaper there to record the event.
Newspapers need advertising to survive. Without it, how do you pay salaries, expenses, maintenance, etc.
People don’t realize the emperor doesn’t wear clothes and when they do, it’s going to be too late.
Think about this. We all have to support our local newspapers. If we don’t, we are contributing to the demise of our own community’s history.
Reports tell us there is more money and more people in the state than ever before, yet advertising is fading. Don’t let social media ruin a good thing for all of us.