No news isn’t good news in Warroad, a town that grapples with the loss of its newspaper

This article is a part of Trust Week, a Forum Communications series.

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Scott Johnson, a contractor in Warroad, saved a copy of the last edition of the Warroad Pioneer from May 2019. His father's obituary was published in the edition.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Editor's note: This article is a part of Trust Week, a Forum Communications series.

WARROAD, Minn. — When visiting Warroad — nestled on the shore of Lake of the Woods and home to 2,051 people, according to the 2020 United States Census — one gets the sense the community punches above its demographic weight.

Marvin Windows, a family-owned manufacturer of doors and windows operating since 1912, is headquartered in Warroad, and its 2,000 employees make it the largest employer in the city and one of the largest in the region.

Warroad has been dubbed “Hockeytown USA,” due to its propensity for developing elite players. The Warriors have won four Minnesota Class A state boys hockey championships, and the school's girls team is celebrating back-to-back state titles. Warroad High School alumni include Olympic gold medalists Roger, Bill and Dave Christian, Gigi Marvin, and NHL players Henry Boucha, T.J. Oshie, Dave Christian and Brock Nelson.

There's a lot going on in Warroad. And a lot of good news is going unreported after the 2019 closure of the Warroad Pioneer, which had served the community for 121 years. No newspaper has opened to take its place.


It's a nationwide trend. Last summer, the New York Times reported that approximately 2,500 U.S. newspapers have closed since 2005. More closures are expected by 2025, the Times predicted.

It's creating what are called news deserts, where — according to the Times report — a fifth of Americans now live.

“We have just not been successful in finding someone to start print operations up again, or to do the digital version,” said Kathy Lovelace, Warroad’s city administrator.

Lovelace said an organization called Warroad Community Partners publishes a weekly calendar on its website and social media platforms such as Facebook, noting upcoming events in the community. Although certain people find social media a convenient medium for accessing news, it puts others — namely those accustomed to print journalism — at a disadvantage, Lovelace said.

“The big hurdle is communication — how do you get things out to everybody?” she said. “The Chamber of Commerce and Warroad’s Discovery and Development Hub do have a fairly large social media presence. There’s a certain generation that does access information on social media, but older generations don’t use it as much, and don’t know how to get information about what’s happening in the area.”

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Kathy Lovelace, Warroad city administrator, discusses the challenges of disseminating information to residents who aren't on social media in the community.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Lovelace said similar communication barriers exist for the less digitally savvy with regard to coverage of School Board and City Council meetings. Minutes are accessible online, but there is no in-depth reporting of agenda items and how they impact the community.

Lovelace lamented that appearing in the Pioneer — a past source of pride for Warroad’s children and their parents alike — is out of reach for the current generation.

“I’m glad my kids grew up when they did, because I have pictures of them in the newspaper. It’s odd to me to think this whole age of kids are never going to get to see their picture in the paper,” Lovelace said. “As a parent, that was a big deal for me.”


Across North Main Avenue from City Hall, the Warroad Public Library and Heritage Center maintains extensive archives of the Pioneer, dating back to the paper’s founding.

Ron Tveit, the Heritage Center’s director, said “people are telling us they miss their newspaper, especially senior citizens who aren't on Facebook.”

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Ron Tveit and Kamarra Brunelle look through historic pages from the Warroad Pioneer in the archive at the Warroad Heritage Center Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Coaches and administrators at Warroad High School also expressed their disappointment with the lack of a news outlet to document and archive its students’ academic and athletic achievements.

“Not having a hometown paper kind of hurts,” said Mark Chamernick, athletic director. “We have the Roseau Times-Region that helps a little bit, but they’re going to cover their community first and I don’t blame them. Our girls hockey team just won the state championship — it would be nice to have clippings to compare to when they won it in 2010.”

John Larson, head girls basketball coach at Warroad High School, said not only does a lack of a newspaper make it difficult to showcase his athletes’ accomplishments, it also hinders their ability to be recruited for collegiate athletics.

“I think it’s difficult knowing that we have a group of kids who don’t really have the opportunity to get their names out there,” Larson said. “I make sure to send stats to other newspapers to try and help my kids get recruited. It would be awesome if we could get more coverage — not just sports wise but also academic competitions like knowledge bowls.”

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Warroad high school girls basketball coach John Larson leads practice Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Adam Deathe, president and CEO of Warroad Community Development, has made efforts to address the lack of a newspaper in Warroad, and plans to author press releases for the community on the matter.

“They will address the paucity of printed media in Warroad, and develop initiatives for the public to get involved,” Deathe said.


Having a local news outlet is vital for community engagement, Deathe said. He is open to exploring multiple avenues for delivering media to Warroad’s residents.

“I think all of society benefits from print journalism,” he said. “It is a fabulous record of local achievements recorded for posterity. I’m also very much aware that papers across the world have to compete with information available across numerous platforms. If a local paper hasn’t been commercially viable in the traditional guise, that is something I am keen to address. We are looking to produce information through various mediums, so people have information at their fingertips through both the traditional and modern formats that they are increasingly familiar with.”

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Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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