A recent “news” item – and yes, the apostrophes and italics are intentionally added – adequately makes the case for the future of local newspapers, their responsibilities and, to an extent, even their future.
A report circulating online announced some terrible fate of a local newsmaker. Users of a social media app unashamedly circulated the rumor on Nov. 2. They even said the Herald had written a story that confirmed it.
The whole thing was completely and unequivocally untrue.
As the rumor grew, we stepped in and reported the truth: There was no tragedy, nor was there a Herald report that supposedly confirmed it.
Meanwhile, another example of a newspaper’s role emerged just a few days later. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the Herald reported that Grand Forks has been selected as the location of a massive project that will begin to take shape in the coming year. As described to us by Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Keith Lund, the agribusiness plant – owned by China-based Fufeng Group – will be the “largest single private capital investment in the region's history.”
The announcement of the project was one thing. But in the days following that breaking news, the Herald put its resources to work to try to find exactly how that project will affect Greater Grand Forks and its residents. We’re still writing about the impact, weeks later.
The new project announcement and the false rumor on social media both occurred in a matter of a few days, and they sum up why newspapers are still here. The first showed that news gained through social media can sometimes be questionable at best, patently false at worst. The second was big news that probably will be a landmark event for the entire community. We reported it, and we continue to explain how that news will affect us all.
We know our role is to report the news, good and bad, but in a truthful and trustworthy way. And we know that it’s also our responsibility to break the good news just as quickly as we break the bad. In the process, it’s evitable we will make mistakes, but our intent is good, unlike those who knowingly spread rumors on social media.
Thursday is Thanksgiving, a day when most Americans will gather with friends and families to express gratitude and appreciation for all of the good things in their lives. Here at the Herald, we’re appreciative, too – of you, the loyal customers who have stuck with us throughout so many changes.
Eighteen months ago, as the coronavirus pandemic struck, we wondered what our own future would look like, especially as so many of the businesses with whom we work were struggling to keep their own doors open.
Newspapers were changing even before the pandemic, cutting print days, reducing page counts and so forth. These decisions, quite unpopular with many of our customers, were based solely on the economics of our business.
With so many traditional big advertisers – Kmart, Macy’s, Shopko and a host of others – closing in town, it was inevitable that we must break from a decades-old business model and adapt to another for our own future. Exacerbating the problem was a rising cost of printing, along with a constantly increasing number of readers who prefer to get their news online, rather than in a traditional printed newspaper.
So we made changes. We cut print days, erected a paywall on our website and opted to only deliver print editions through the mail.
Those changes have given us stability. And after a decline during those difficult times, we actually have been increasing our circulation numbers in recent months.
We’re here for the future. And it’s been awhile since anyone mentioned “newspapers” and “future” in the same sentence.
And it’s because of you, the customers who may not like all of our decisions and who may not even like us all the time, yet realize that local news – newspapers, TV and radio – still matters and is worth the monetary investment or simply the time to watch, listen and trust.
Thank you so much for reading the Herald this past year, and also for staying with us as we cover future news in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.