Local papers on the brink of extinction try GoFundMe to stay open

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KASSON, Minn. (KTTC) – Two local papers on the brink of extinction are trying everything they can to keep publishing at a time when newspapers across the country are closing.

The Dodge County Independent and it’s sister publication the Steele County Times has been covering the local community for more than a century and are asking the community for support to keep its doors open.

“In Minnesota, I think there’s been 20 that have closed down in the last five years and we’ve had two in this area,” said Rick Bussler, publisher of the Dodge County Independent.

The Byron Review and the Dodge Center Star Herald both shut down in December.
Now the Dodge County Independent is in danger of its own demise and it’s hoping to avoid the same fate.

RELATED: Byron and Dodge Center newspapers say goodbye

“I’d be lying if wouldn’t say we’re not struggling because we are struggling…” we are on life support,” said Bussler.

Several factors are to blame for the decline of newspapers: rising costs of newsprint, readers shifting to the internet, plummeting ad sales and smaller subscription bases.

DCI and its sister publication, the Steele County Times recently said goodbye to eight staff members and put the Times’ building up for sale. “We’re down to a skeleton crew already. And it’s tough to keep going when you’re losing all that advertising and the decline of people putting stuff in the paper, said Bussler.

And that loss of staff has a ripple effect in the community. “People vote less when they don’t have a community newspaper. People become less engaged. there are a lot of detrimental effects as a whole,” said Bussler.

Alex Malm, the news editor at the paper agrees.

“Whether it’s their taxes going up or their favorite child’s teacher getting terminated. Whatever it is, we’re out there explaining to people what’s happening. You can’t get that from a tweet,” said Malm.

“We’re trying to find a way to bridge the news and the community together and we are that bridge,” said Annie Anderson, the advertising director of DCI.

At the County Seat CoffeeShop in Mantorville, Kristin Alexander says she appreciates the local coverage. “They do a really good job of covering school events, sports, featuring that and I appreciate that when my kids are going to school…” to have the one source that you kind of rely on to be gone, that’s going to be a loss.”

That’s why the news outlet is reaching out to the community it serves for help and has created a GoFundMe account to keep the lights on.

“This newspaper means a lot to me and the community means a lot to me too,” said News Editor Malm.

A letter from the Dodge County Independent to readers:

Dear Readers,

The Dodge County Independent and its sister publication the Steele County Times have started a GoFundMe campaign this week to help the local newspapers survive what has become a tumultuous period for the
newspaper industry.

Knowing that the local publications are not immune to the struggles facing the newspaper industry right now, staff members at the DCI came up with the idea for a GoFundMe campaign. The staff members went to the publisher, who approved the campaign.

“The goal of the campaign is to help make people in the community aware of
how important newspapers are, especially in small towns,” said Alex Malm, news
editor of the DCI in Kasson. “Through the campaign the newspaper also hopes to
bring to the community’s attention that newspapers are only able to stay open
through the advertising support of the local businesses and through community
members showing their support by subscribing to the paper or picking up
copies at newsstands.” Over the last few years, the reality has been that newspapers are becoming more expensive to run and with more and more local
businesses spending less on advertising, revenue for newspapers across the state and country are becoming less. Just within the past year, newsprint costs
have skyrocketed by 30 percent, postal rates have increased, and Dodge County and Byron have both lost local newspapers, with the Byron Review and Star Herald closing their doors. At the time of the closing, the publisher
cited their papers as not being profitable anymore and hadn’t been for several years. The Times and Dodge County Independent hope to be able to continue doing what they have been doing for over 125 years, which is providing the most local news available. “Without additional community support, we may not be able to do it any longer,” Bussler said. “I hope people realize the value we bring
to the communities we serve and keep the newspapers alive. Anything otherwise would be a travesty.” Bussler said, “It really comes down to how much do people value their local newspapers. If we don’t see improvement, the reality of us
ending up like other newspapers that have closed is very real.”

Linda Ha

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV | lha@kttc.com

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