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One of the many victims of COVID-19 is community newspapers. We’ve seen it nationally, regionally and locally.
In our last print edition on May 14, columnist Forrest Johnson detailed the sad demise of the Lake County News Chronicle, where he was once employed. His headline for the piece was “Newspaper are dropping like flies.”
The Poynter Institute, an organization devoted to improving journalism, has kept a running tally of all the newspapers and other media outlets that have been forced to suspend publication, publish virtual editions only, lay off employees or completely shut their doors. The list is a long one, and it includes the Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns. The Times had to lay off 11 journalists at first, and then reduced publication days and furloughed more staff.
The successful alt-weekly Austin Chronicle went to biweekly publication. The respected Isthmus in Madison went “dark.” The popular Milwaukee Shepherd Express went to online publication only.
What happens to our newspaper colleague when this is all over is anybody’s guess. Will they return to full print schedules? Probably not all of them.
Locally, Forum Communications announced recently that several of its shoppers would end publication, including The Budgeteer, which began life as a shopper, then refashioned itself into a feisty community newspaper, ended its 89-year run as a shopper without editorial content. The Budgeteer’s last issue was in the middle of this month, and even though it was no longer a newspaper, it will be missed.
Forum Communications has also forced the two local “dailies” – the Duluth News Tribune and the Superior Telegram (once printed daily – except Sunday – on its own printing press behind the office) to tighten their respective belts with largely reduced number of pages and limited print runs.
The Reader has adopted many of the above measures, short of turning off the lights. But we have tightened our belts, learned to do as much as before with less. A majority of our advertisers were forced to turn their lights off, so that meant a sharp and sudden drop in revenue.
We went to a biweekly print schedule, but still produce a virtual edition through the slick Issu website, that creates a flip-through edition of The Reader to be read online. Our print issues also get the Issu treatment when we load the stories from the new issue to our website, ReaderDuluth.com. You should check out the virtual editions online. It’s as close as you are going to get to the real thing. Click in the middle of the cover page and you’ll get a full-screen version that you can easily flip through, page by page. It’s pretty cool, for an online substitute of our print edition
And for those of you who still want the ink-stained paper version of The Reader, well, we’ve had to cut the number of pages we produce, but every other week you will find us at our friendly, neighborhood grocery stores, gas stations, street boxes and other outlets who give space to us to present the Northland’s free, locally owned and locally operated newspaper.
And like many other news organizations during this time, we have put out our hand and asked for help from our supporters. We asked people to join the Reader Revolution by donating money to help us get though this hard time. We tried to make it easy by creating a donate button on our website. We’ve also received many envelopes with checks and words of encouragement, such as this from a couple in Carlton: “We truly enjoy The Reader and hope you can keep it going. We are old-fashioned and like a paper we can hold & turn the pages. Hang in there.”
Or this from a Duluth woman: “I want to see The Reader succeed & continue serving the people.”
So do we!
The Reader has been your source for independent local journalism in the Northland for close to a quarter-century. We want to continue and enhance our efforts, and that’s why we’ve created the Reader Revolution membership program, to give you an avenue to help support us.
Donors will receive exclusive perks as well as the satisfaction that they are helping us to continue the tradition of delivering the best local newspaper money can’t buy.
Your support means a lot. This isn’t over. Climbing out of the hole will be a struggle for all. With your help, we will make it.
Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to support the advertisers who support The Reader.
Here’s a list of the superstar advertisers who stuck with us through it all – be sure to support them, and tell them who sent you.
• Campbell Lumber
• College of St. Scholastica
• Dubhlinn Irish Pub
• Entrepreneur Fund
• Fish Johnson Salmon
• Fox 21
• Grandma’s Saloon & Grill
• Kari Toyota
• Keyport Liquor
• Lake Aire Bottle Shoppe
• Mount Royal Market
• Lulu’s Pizza
• Pools of Fun
• Radosevitch Law
• Sir Benedict’s Tavern
• Tortoise & Hare Footwear
• Twin Ports Cyclery
• Wussow’s Concert Café