This past year has been a blur At this time a year ago, we made a decision to rebrand and expand our newspapers. I guess I really shouldn’t say “we.” I did it. My little newspaper was kind of a …
This past year has been a blur
At this time a year ago, we made a decision to rebrand and expand our newspapers.
I guess I really shouldn’t say “we.” I did it. My little newspaper was kind of a one-man show back then.
At the time, I owned two newspapers, one of which was located in an area where a big newspaper group was consolidating papers. It took the paper that circulated in much of the market and shut it down, folding it in with a paper in Minnesota.
I didn’t like the fact that public notices were no longer going to be run in a local newspaper, so I started to let public officials know that.
They ignored me.
On a Sunday morning, I hatched my plan to expand. With much of the year spent in a pandemic, it seems like forever ago. I had brought my computer home, and I was writing an article on the tourism industry in Pierce County. If I remember correctly, it was really, really good. (I’m only having positive memories today!) I redesigned the top of the paper, rebranding the paper as Pierce County’s Newspaper. I spent the next morning getting police reports from other departments, and a new era was born.
We gave it away on newsstands for a couple weeks and went back to work on local government. It took a while to crack the first egg. We were voted as the newspaper of record for Pierce County in early February. The next week, we were named the official newspaper for the Village of Ellsworth. Two weeks later, it was the School District of Ellsworth. I spent many nights a week at government meetings, hitting townships and making my pitch.
At the same time, the newspaper in Minnesota that once had a claim on the county was losing interest. When the pandemic hit, they cut about two-thirds of their staff and shut down some more newspapers.
“What the heck?” I thought, “It worked once before.”
What was once an “I” was a “we” now. We rolled up our sleeves and went to work on just about the same plan with a Hastings edition of The Journal. Local news. Government “stuff.” Sports. Police reports. Local, local, local. Over the summer, and in the midst of the pandemic we quickly became the fastest-growing newspapers in two states. We still are, I’m certain, especially after launching in Cottage Grove in November.
We now have a great team on board. My son Jack and daughter-in-law Chelsey run the Pierce County show. Bruce Karnick does it all in Hastings – and now Cottage Grove. We all work too hard. I know that because I started my day at 2 a.m. and have a meeting to cover tonight.
That company that ceded Pierce County to me actually is no more. They sold their papers to another group.
When I think back to that Sunday morning a year ago, a couple thoughts enter my mind. First, this whole thing is kind of the result of some procrastination.