Friday, March 29, 2019

Rural Iowa journalist publishes four weeklies from her home

Melinda Wichmann in her office (Press-Citizen photo by Dick Hakes)
It's not unheard of for a small-town weekly newspaper to be produced by one person, but how about four weeklies? That's what Melinda Wichmann does every week from the spare bedroom in her home in the east-central Iowa community of Homestead, pop. 148.

"From this spot, Wichmann collects, edits and organizes all the local news she can snag from parts of Iowa, Benton and Poweshiek counties. She’s a solo employee, relying on limited-time freelancers and the general public to contribute news and photos," Dick Hakes reports for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, a Gannett Co. daily. Gannett bought the group that included the papers.

Wichmann says the input from the public and freelancers is a key part of her operation. "Those people are the only way I’m managing to keep these papers going," Wichmann told Hakes. "I may be the Lone Ranger out here, but I couldn’t do it without help from freelancers and readers who share their community news with me."

Wichmann wasn't always a lone ranger. She began her career in journalism in 1988 in the 40-person operation at the Pioneer Republican in Marengo and its sister paper the Journal Tribune in Williamsburg. Through layoffs and ownership changes, she hung on and absorbed more and more responsibilities," Hakes reports.

"Last summer and fall, the physical offices were closed in each of the four communities key to the newspapers. Besides Marengo and Williamsburg, that included the Star Press Union in Belle Plaine and the Poweshiek County Chronicle Republican in Grinnell," Hakes reports. So, in February Wichmann "agreed to take on all four newspapers under the title of community content specialist and to try to accomplish it in a normal work week from her home."

It's a lot of work, and staying organized is critical, but Wichmann says it's worth it. "I take pride in the fact that these four papers are still being published," she told Hakes. "I think I am kind of here by accident, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be."

1 comment:

Howard Owens said...

It would be a lot easier, cheaper, and more profitable to do it all online.