When small town Minnesota papers die, voices go silent

Gilbert and Eveleth joined a growing list of American communities on Saturday when their local newspapers died. The Gilbert Herald and the Eveleth Scene ended production.

That’s 105 years of Minnesota history gone, just like that.

“There is only so much you can do in the newspaper industry,” Nathan Krause, the third generation owner of the papers, told the Mesabi Daily News. “It either works for you or it doesn’t.”

Small town media once was the glue that held a community together. Like the radio stations of my previous working lives, there was value in the lost dog announcements, the school lunch menus, the local basketball team, and the exploits of the kid that went off to the big city to go to college.

Krause’s final editorial held a clue to its demise:

This old paper has talked of so much history from eras gone by from the fire at the old Gilbert church to every church, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, library, VFW, event and even the more personal stories of a boy and his fish.

Great moments in time from the Gilbert HS basketball team at the state meets, the EGHS hockey team winning hockey tourneys, the opening of a groundbreaking OHV park, the schools themselves consolidating to try and hold a higher standard to our kids’ educations. There are far more stories that I will never hear, and which should be told. That however will be entrusted to future knowledge seekers.

I subscribe to my weekly paper in my suburban community. It has two sections: the news section and the sports section. I throw the sports section immediately in the recycling.

But I devour the news section, especially the police reports and — for reasons I can’t explain — the long lists of kids who made the honor roll at school. I don’t have any kids in school anymore but I feel more a part of a community in a city that has done everything to instill the appearance of community, except actually be one.

Krause’s effort is particularly upsetting because he has the role of journalism perfectly defined.

As for Krause’s plans, he said, “I’m moving forward.” He believes the newspaper business is about “talking to people about their dreams and places they’re going. That was a big part for my dad too, not chasing the ambulance so to speak, and not getting in everybody’s face. Somebody’s got to speak up for the boy with his fish. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this story from a man from Gilbert that my dad took a picture of their fish.”

Krause said, “Sometimes I didn’t do such a stellar job… There’s things I missed.” And “there were a lot of times the newspaper came close to extinction, 20, 30 years ago,” he said. “Now there are a lot of different directions to publicize in.”

But there aren’t enough readers who care about people’s dreams and the places they’re going.

(h/t: Aaron Brown)