2013-05-02 / Columns

From the Heartland

By Allan Burke

After an outbreak of spring last Thursday and warm weather over the weekend, the forecast is for a little cooler, but still very nice, weather this week. Highs should be between 55 and 65 degrees and lows between 27 and 38 degrees. There’s a chance of rain showers, and the breeze should be in the 13- 16 miles-per-hour category.

Hobnobbing

We enjoyed the joint North Dakota Newspaper Association and South Dakota Newspaper Association convention in Rapid City, S.D., Thursday through Saturday. Joining us on the bus trip were Ad Manager Julie Brandner and Reporter Terri Lang.

Newspaper conventions are both fun and educational, and they are an opportunity to talk “shop” with others in the industry, both from daily papers as well as from weeklies.

I got to see a couple of college friends, Charles Najact of Custer, S.D., and Dan Bechtold of Winner, S.D. Charlie chaired the South Dakota portion of the convention as SDNA President. Dan has been editor of the Winner Advocate for 41 years. We saw lots of other newspaper friends from both states.

Among those we got to visit with were Linda Hanson Meyer, General Manager of the Mobridge Tribune (the Tribune won many awards), Jim and Kathy Nelson of the Timber Lake Topic, Paul and DeAndra Erdelt of the Steele Ozone and Karen Holzer of Salem, S.D., and former Pollock Postmaster.

My moment in the spotlight came Friday afternoon when I chaired the annual meeting of the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education Foundation. The group funds high school and college internships at newspapers around the state as well as other projects related to the industry.

The convention banquet was held Friday night, and it was nothing short of awesome. The setting was The Carvers Cafe, which is part of the complex at the base of the monument. We could see the four faces from our table at dusk. Halfway into the event, the faces were lighted, which was spectacular. The menu included buffalo, which was fitting for the Black Hills.

I did my best to chaperone the three “girls.” Nevertheless, they did slip away to do some shopping during one of the sessions that didn’t apply to us.

We all came back feeling good about serving communities with weekly newspapers.

The theme

If there was an informal theme for the sessions we attended, it was that daily and weekly newspapers are alive and well. Mark Twain’s reaction to the accidental publishing of his obituary long before he died is appropriate in this case, too: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

I joked with friends that the power of newspapers was evident—when the convention convened, spring arrived.

While misinformation about the industry is widely spread, the truth is that newspapers are doing well. That is mainly because there is no better source of community information than a newspaper. The latest statistics is that 88 percent of the people in communities served by weekly papers read the paper. The percent is almost as high for daily papers.

We appreciate the loyalty and support of this newspaper’s subscribers and advertisers.

Similar stories

The tendency of some city, school and county boards to ignore open meetings laws seems to be universal. One weekly editor noted the city board in her town did the real business at the bar and had little to say at the public meeting. Another editor said official minutes of meetings were not complete.

Our republic rises or falls with its democratic institutions, and all citizens have an obligation not only to vote but to follow what goes on in local government.

The best thing that could happen would be if citizens would attend the meetings, but that, sadly, seldom happens. Maybe that will change.

A big concern is the desire of some public officials to eliminate the public notices that are printed in newspapers so that government can operate more secretly and control information to the benefit of local politicians.

The wild west

Our bus headed south toward the Hills at Dickinson, so we saw the oil boom activity in that area and then the wide open spaces of southwest North Dakota and northwest South Dakota.

We went through one stretch that was very dry, and farm equipment was creating huge clouds of dust. All but that area near the border showed evidence of the recent snowstorms.

On the way home, the bus stopped in Reva, S.D., population four, where the town store, gas station and post office are in the same building. Everyone on the bus bought at least one item in the store, so we all felt virtuous in boosting a small town in our Economic Development on Wheels mission and may well have given the Gross Town Profit a huge and positive hit.

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