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HOT PURSUIT

A breath of fresh air for community journalism
By
Rick Bussler, Publisher
Hot Pursuit, Rick Bussler, cherryroad

A few weeks ago, I shared how eight newspapers, including one in my home area, were closing at the end of April. This week there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for at least two of the communities affected by the closures.

CherryRoad Media announced last week that it is filling the void left by opening newspapers in Hutchinson and Litchfield next week. The new newspapers will be called the Hutchinson Station and Litchfield Rail. They will be bringing back existing staff to the communities that have been served with community journalism since the late 1800s.

It warms my heart that another company saw a huge opportunity to continue publishing local newspapers. After all, community newspapers play a huge role in keeping residents informed and engaged in their communities. I think residents would be lost without being able to find out the local news going on around them.

While CherryRoad has been around as a technology company since 1983, it only began publishing newspapers a few years ago. After a series of acquisitions and newspaper start-up projects, it has quickly grown into a reputable, thriving institution over the past five years.

Most importantly, it appears CherryRoad’s approach is to keep things local and is focused on the communities it serves for the right reasons.

That’s a far cry from what Alden Global Capital, the company that shuttered the Minnesota newspapers last week, has been doing with many newspapers around the country. This became painfully obvious in Minneapolis where I recently saw a documentary, “Stripped for Parts: American Journalism on the Brink.”

It shared the story of Alden as a secretive hedge fund that is plundering American newspapers. While enroute to becoming the largest newspaper company in the country, Alden gobbles up financially strapped newspapers and sucks them bone-dry for profits. The documentary highlighted journalist Julie Reynolds, who began investigating Alden and why they are gobbling up newspapers only to turn around and dismantle them.

Veteran journalists were shown in their fight to go toe-to-toe with their “vulture capitalist” owners in a battle to save and rebuild local journalism in America. In 2018, a few journalists at the Denver Post even went as far to picket Alden’s corporate offices in New York and write scathing editorials against its hedge-fund ownership with Alden. They issued a plea in the newspaper for Alden to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings. Not surprisingly, nothing happened. At least nothing in the positive direction.

Alden’s CEO Heath Freeman has been appropriately given the title of “Destroyer of Newspapers.”

After watching the documentary, I felt distressed about the industry I represent. But I was also hopeful that positive change can be made and perhaps the very industry that’s at the core of our democracy can be retained.

All I can say is good riddance to Alden after running the eight weekly newspapers into the ground. Alden still plans to continue operating the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Luckily, a breath of fresh air will be hovering over Hutchinson and Litchfield as CherryRoad goes in hot pursuit of saving community journalism in those communities.

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