Newspaper publishers change tactics looking for subscribers – Black Hills Pioneer

PIERRE — A panel of newspaper publishers from North Dakota and South Dakota said Saturday they are both optimistic and scared, as they face challenges locally from population shifts and U.S. President Donald Trump accuses national media of distributing “fake” news.

Cecile Wehrman from Journal Publishing in Crosby, N.D., and Harvey Brock from the Dickinson (N.D.) Press said their areas gained young families because of energy development.

Now their papers in western North Dakota are reaching those new people through Facebook’s site on the Internet, educating them about shopping on the main streets of their communities and being more welcoming.

Jeremy Waltner from the weekly Freeman Courier and Mark Roby from Dakota Media Group, which has two dailies, the Aberdeen American News and The Public Opinion in Watertown, each said he is scared for the future of their papers.

They are trying different tactics to attract subscribers.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve not seen a working model that produces good, consistent revenue,” Waltner said about the Courier making the Internet the foundation for its cash flow.

So, is he optimistic otherwise? “Yes,” Waltner declared.

Roby said there is “a huge need” for information about entertainment opportunities in their communities. Hosting events offers profit potential, he said. Watertown is “coalescing” around enrollment growth at Lake Area Technical Institute, he added.

A non-profit whose purpose Roby described as addressing big issues is one year, or less, from launch. “For example,” he said, “is it really healthy for us to be tearing out the shelterbelts in northeastern South Dakota?”

Their comments came during the final morning of the joint convention of the two newspaper associations that met this year in Aberdeen.

Audience members told success stories as the discussion transitioned into questions, answers, and comments.

Charise Abernathy, production manager at Native Sun Today, based in Rapid City, said she runs the Facebook page for the paper.

“I think it’s important we don’t underestimate the younger generation,” Abernathy said.

Kristi Hine, publisher and editor of the True Dakotan at Wessington Springs, said her community’s school system is growing.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hine said. She urged other publishers and editors to be “super-involved in your community.”

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