The Herald last week printed 74 stories and 30 photos that were produced in our newsroom.
The week before, it was 81 stories – including 21 local stories in just the Sunday, Sept. 29, edition – and 38 local photos. Those numbers don’t include the short, small stories we call “briefs.” Nor do they include stories about state government and the like from our company’s writers embedded at the capitols in Bismarck and St. Paul. Also not included are the various extra local pieces found only on our website.
The total is just the actual stories, columns and editorials from Grand Forks writers over the last two six-day periods.
The relevance? That the Herald – like so many other newspapers across the nation – might be changing, but it is still dedicated to the traditional task at hand.
This is National Newspaper Week, a period set aside for our industry to remind its customers that newspapers still have an important role in the communications landscape. Newspapers still plan to be government watchdogs while publishing the statistics from the football game. They still plan to tell the stories of heroes, of sadness, of strife and greatness in their communities.
The process has changed but the goal has not, even in the face of incredible financial adversity. Earlier this year, USA Today reported that 2,000 newspapers have closed nationwide since 2004.
Most newspapers have downsized and cut expenses. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for example, is among the latest to reduce print days and now only prints three editions per week. Dozens of newspapers have consolidated their printing operations with nearby competitors or company brethren, since print plants cost an exorbitant amount of money to operate.
Of course, the Herald has done all of that, too. In 2018, we stopped publishing our Monday edition and began printing in Fargo. In the years prior to 2019, we cut reporting staff, although some of those positions have been rehired as our parent company – Forum Communications – makes a push for local content. Our editions are smaller than in the past, as lucrative national advertisers have closed their doors. A month ago, the Herald began charging for its online content.
The changes have been frustrating to some customers. But know this: The changes were necessary, as your local newspaper works to find the solution to a national problem.
When newspapers close, it creates areas called “news deserts.” Within those deserts, important happenings – from government corruption to the candidates for homecoming royalty – go unreported. Facebook and Google won’t be there to pick up the slack, and any reports found on those platforms will be unreliable.
The Herald is still in Grand Forks, in the same building as always. Today, newsroom staffers here are working on stories about Greater Grand Forks, state government and the towns in our area. Sports reporters are gearing up for this week’s high school and college games. The same is happening at the East Grand Forks Exponent, at WDAY (which still has staff in Grand Forks) and the radio stations that present local news and sports.
This definitely is no news desert. And for that, local residents should be pleased.