Drayton newspaper to close in June if buyer not found
The last issue of Valley News & Views under owner, publisher and editor Lesa Van Camp will be printed on June 2.
DRAYTON, N.D. — Lesa Van Camp is holding out hope that somebody will buy Valley News & Views, the newspaper in Drayton.
On May 5, the editor, publisher and owner of the northeast North Dakota paper announced on the front page of Valley News & Views that she was “forced to make the difficult decision to stop the presses” for the paper to focus on her health. Though Van Camp has been searching for somebody to take over the paper, her search has not yielded any buyers.
“Until the very last issue is printed, I have hope that someone will come forward that has an interest in helping this small community to have their newspaper,” she said.
The last issue of Valley News & Views under Van Camp will be printed on June 2. Though she says the date might seem like an odd choice, it will allow her to cover the Drayton Public School Class of 2022 graduation.
“They’ve earned the right to be highlighted in the local newspaper, and it would be a disservice to them to close the newspaper before they got their turn,” Van Camp said.
She could have continued publishing through the end of June, but that would have been close to Drayton's Riverfest in July. Then, she said, school starts in August.
“Yes, I could have gone to the end of June, but then there’s always going to be one more thing,” she said.
Before Valley News & Views, Drayton was home to a number of other local papers since the first in the early 1880s.
The first issue of Valley News & Views was published on April 1, 1982. Van Camp’s husband Lyle Van Camp and her mother-in-law Roberta Van Camp started the paper. They ran it until 2007, when they sold it for financial reasons. In 2014, the owner died, and Van Camp decided to buy the paper.
Van Camp had little newspaper experience when she purchased Valley News & Views in 2014, but didn’t want to see the paper started by her family close.
“People do not want to see their newspaper die, so that’s why I bought it. So it wouldn’t die,” said Van Camp. “Ultimately, the irony is, I’m the one closing it.”
Without Valley News & Views, Van Camp worries community news from the school, city government and local sports teams will go unreported. The paper has long been a place for people to print engagement announcements, birth announcements and obituaries.
“A small town community newspaper is kind of the heartbeat of the community,” said Van Camp.
Drayton Mayor Chip Olson said it would be sad not to have the presence of a local newspaper in the city.
“In small newspapers, you don’t have world news,” said Olson. “You don’t want world news — you want the local sports teams and how they’re doing, what’s going on in the community.”
One of Van Camp’s favorite parts of the job over the years has been reporting on kids in the community. Before COVID-19, Van Camp wrote a weekly feature column called “Kid of the Week,” where she interviewed early elementary students.
Students were involved in the paper in other ways. When Van Camp bought the paper, a pair of students wrote a column called the “Laiken and Taylor Column,” which they wrote from sixth grade until graduating from high school. Now, high school English students write a weekly column.
Though she credits “wonderful columnists,” community members who submit articles and photos and volunteers for keeping the paper going, especially in the last year, Van Camp knows it is not a sustainable business model.
“It takes the community to help out from time to time, but I’m needing more and more help,” said Van Camp.
She had also been searching for an employee to report and sell advertisements, but said there was very little interest in the job.
Van Camp says her family has been supportive of her decision to close the paper, and though many have expressed they will miss the paper, community members have been understanding of Van Camp’s situation. But, that support doesn’t totally take the weight of her decision off of her shoulders.
“It does and it doesn't,” said Van Camp. “It makes me sad. This has been a very difficult decision for me to make because I know what the town will be missing.”