It was recently announced that two more North Dakota newspapers have closed for an indefinite amount of time. They are the New Town News and Mountrail County Record in Parshall.
That brings the recent number of closures to six in what seems to be a stunning trend. First, it was the Metigoshe Mirror, then the Walhalla Mountaineer, the Dunn County Herald in Killdeer, the Cavalier County Republican in Langdon and now the two Mountrail County newspapers.
Thus far, there hasn’t been an official word on why the most recent closures happened. We can assume anything, but we won’t know, until we know.
What we do know is New Town city auditor Eileen Zaun told the Bismarck Tribune that she was informed by the city attorney that the papers had closed and she began looking for another newspaper in which to publish legal notices.
You might automatically think that the closures were financial or that social media has gobbled up the news feed. That’s not always the case.
Walhalla Mountaineer owner Rodney Huffmann announced roughly a year before the paper closed that if he didn’t find a buyer, he would shutter the Pembina County weekly. Nobody came forward so a community of nearly 1,000 lost it’s local publication. The Cavalier Chronicle absorbed the legal notices for the city of Walhalla.
The Dunn County Herald was part of a group of papers owned by Country Media that were set for closure. Country Media also owned the Cavalier County Republican, but chose to hang on to that publication, presumably because it was a profitable venture.
In a bold move, Jill Friesz, of the Grant County News in Elgin, purchased several of the Country Media papers in the southwest; New England and Hettinger, but it didn’t include the Dunn County Herald. As a result, the Herald closed, and because that was the official Dunn County newspaper, the Dunn County Commission voted to make the nearby Beulah Beacon, in Mercer County, its official county newspaper.
The situation in Langdon was again, different than the others. Publisher Lori Peterson decided to take a job at a Langdon bank. Country Media looked for a replacement and couldn’t find anyone so the official Cavalier County newspaper was also shuttered.
In this situation, Langdon radio station KNDK requested the purchase of the name, rather than the newspaper itself, but Country Media wouldn’t sell the name.
As a result of that, KNDK started its own newspaper to fill the vacuum. It became known as the Borderland Press and now the Press has become the official Cavalier County newspaper.
For myself, this is stunning to see. I recently retired after spending 31 years in North Dakota and South Dakota journalism. When I received my degree from the University of North Dakota in 1889, it was near impossible to find a job. I beat the streets, turned over rocks, polished my resume and did some volunteer work until landing a position at my hometown paper the Emmons County Record in Linton.
Lately, however, the situation has completely reversed. Any young, aspiring journalist, could almost pick their position and the community in which they want to work. The Valley City Times-Record, the Devils Lake Journal, the Fargo Forum, the Beulah Beacon, The Kenmare News, the Jamestown Sun, all have had opportunities in recent weeks.
And maybe that’s the magic here. Right now, it’s pretty easy to get a job in journalism. College grads should take a serious look at this. It could solve a major problem – newspapers fill their positions and a new grad with college debt has a job right out of school. It’s a win win.
I told my wife that if I wasn’t married and had stakes in Ward County, I would have gone back to Langdon in a heartbeat to operate the Cavalier County Republican. When I started there, I was immediately thrust into a community leadership role and what young journalist wouldn’t want that.
For now, we wait until there’s an official reason for the closure of New Town and Parshall. The Fort Berthold Reservation has the MHA Times, the tribal newspaper, but doesn’t always cover the community at large. So let’s hope something positive changes in both communities.