Thursday, December 05, 2019

Next-county owner steps in to keep two N. Dakota counties from becoming news deserts; a third still needs a buyer

Hettinger and Adams counties were about to become news deserts until the owner of the paper in Grant County, just east of them, became the new owner and published without missing an edition. The Dunn County Herald remains out of business. Slope County and Sioux County are the other news deserts in the state, says the North Dakota Newspaper Association.
North Dakota almost had three more "news deserts," counties without a local newspaper, but the owner of a paper in an adjoining county stepped in to keep two of them going.

Country Media, based in Salem, Oregon, announced the closing of the Adams County Record in Hettinger, The Herald in New England, and The Dunn County Herald in Killdeer in the papers' Friday, Nov. 29 editions, the North Dakota Newspaper Association Bulletin reports. But less than a week later, Jill Friesz of the Grant County News "had become the new owner of the Hettinger and New England publications, and she published them on time without missing an edition." The Dunn County Herald remains out of business; it had the largest circulation of the three papers: 1,624.

NDNA Executive Director Steve Andrist “reached out to me last Monday afternoon and told me that those papers were closing as of Friday,” Friesz told James B. Miller Jr. of The Bismarck Tribune. “He kind of put a bug in my ear that maybe that would be a great opportunity for me to grow a little bit and take care of those communities.”

NDNA reports that Friesz "saw expansion as a business opportunity, but was motivated more by her belief in the importance of newspapers to their communities." She told The Dickinson Press, “Local news is so important because we are the historians for our communities. Bigger papers cover wide areas, but they can’t come down to Mott, Regent, New England, Hettinger or New Liepzig and cover these areas the way that we can cover them.”

The purchase thwarted the creation of a news desert of four adjacent counties. There are no newspapers in Slope County, which has only 700 people, or in Sioux County, most of which is part of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

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