The Role of Newspapers in Rural Minnesota

By Julie Tesch, President & CEO

Have you read a newspaper lately? Was it your local newspaper? Was it in print or online?

I’m fortunate to have a daily, regional newspaper delivered to my door every day. I also have two neighboring community newspapers delivered weekly. Why do I spend this money? It is my connection to my community and local news. I can go online at any time and find out what is going on in pop culture and national politics, but I still rely on my daily and weekly printed newspapers for the majority of my local news.

But I’m part of a growing minority.

The trend is going towards online publication more every single day. I, too, get a great deal of my news online. It is quick and easy to get, but I still prefer a printed newspaper. There is just something about those pages of newsprint that I adore.

This past fall I was in Benson, MN, visiting one of our board members, Reed Anfinson. He is the longtime publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News and a true advocate for rural Minnesota. As Reed and I sat chatting in his office, he made an observation that I found profound.

“You can tell how healthy a community is by their newspaper. If they don’t have a local newspaper, then Main Street is probably suffering greatly, which means that people are moving away.”

I had never thought of a local newspaper being such an important part of a rural community. I have always taken my local newspapers for granted. They were always there giving me updates from the local school board meeting, congratulating local students on their accomplishments and having an editorial section that I may or may not agree with. I never thought about there not being a local newspaper.

Reed went on: “Without our newspaper, we don’t have the stories that draw us together as a community with a shared sense of responsibility and purpose.”

That really struck a chord with me. Who else is going to report on city council meetings? Who is going to report on Main Street businesses and their success or failure? Where will I find out the sales going on at local stores? I would like to think that I would check these stories out online, but in reality, I won’t. I’ll click on the one article I am interested in and ignore everything else on the site. With a print newspaper, I have a whole buffet of stories in front of me to read. I might or might not read all of them, but I can guarantee you that I will probably learn something new that I wasn’t expecting to learn, or I might decide to go shopping at a local business because I saw their advertisement.

When you think about rural Minnesota, I encourage you to think about your local newspaper as well. There is so much angst about “fake news” and a disdain for the media across the country. Through it all, local newspapers continue to report the news of the area, so that we as readers can stay informed and connected to our local community. When you support your local newspaper, you are also supporting your community.

To hear more from Reed Anfinson, I encourage you to watch these episodes on rural newspapers on Pioneer Public Television. You will find them enlightening.