We're still here
Your Pine Knot has reached a milestone
November 1, 2019
The Pine Knot celebrates one year of publication this week. It's been a heady journey for the founders and those who work to assemble your newspaper every week. We re-opened the downtown Cloquet office that the Pine Journal's corporate owner closed in early 2018. The Pine Journal was the result of a merger of the Cloquet Journal and the Pine Knot in 2002. We obtained the rights to the historic name in a nod to the past and future.
It took us two months to launch the new Pine Knot. Five of us formed a board with Jana Peterson, an award-winning investigative journalist and former editor of the Pine Journal. Jana brought deep understanding about what a newspaper serving a community needs to achieve to cover the staff roles of editor, reporters, office manager, compositors and an advertising manager.
She needed intelligence on the business side. What are reasonable expectations for subscriptions, for advertising revenue? Where should we go for printing and how much would that cost? How do we distribute the papers? What kinds of businesses in our region would sell our papers and how do we approach and work with them?
We also had aesthetic challenges. Should we go with a standard layout or go to a smaller, more compact format? What colors should we use? How could we make our West End storefront attractive and inviting to people?
We went to work.
The shuttered Pine Journal space had been closed for nine months. We ordered a new banner for the awning. We furnished it with items we could all do without at home and two rocking chairs from a rummage sale. We converted our beautiful office-length multi-colored brick wall into an art gallery and issued a call for artists.
Closures of local news weeklies serving smaller communities have become epidemic in the country. They leave residents in a local news desert, hamper the ability of advertisers to reach customers, and undermine town and county governments' abilities to communicate with their residents.
National Public Radio ran a story last year on what happens when small towns and locally owned newspapers disappear. Reporter Shankar Vedantam interviews Laura Frank, an investigative reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, which folded in 2009. Frank explains how important stories for locals, especially long and costly ones to research, disappear when a paper evaporates.
Vedantam then recounts the findings of three finance professors who studied 300 local newspaper closures around the U.S. from 1996 to 2015. Local government borrowing costs went up substantially following the shutdowns. Finance companies raised the interest rates they were willing to pay for school, county and city projects. Taxpayers ended up paying millions more in interest for bonds. Why? Lenders charge more if there is no local watchdog keeping county, city and town governments and school boards in check.
The Warroad weekly newspaper in far northern Minnesota - published for 121 years - closed May 7 of this year. New York Times reporter Richard Fausset wrote a long and beautiful eulogy for the Warroad Pioneer this past summer. He interviewed its editor and staff. Their view of the future: "No hometown paper to print obituaries from the Helgeson Funeral Home. No place to chronicle the exploits of the beloved high school hockey teams. No historical record for the little town museum, which had carefully kept the newspaper in boxes going back to 1897."
In ending its run, the Warroad Pioneer joined roughly 2,000 newspapers closed in the United States the last 15 years. A recent study by Penelope Abernathy titled, "The Expanding News Desert," concludes gloomily that "there is simply not enough digital or print revenue to pay for the public service journalism that local newspapers have historically provided."
Our revived Pine Knot is successfully swimming against this tide.
We welcome your subscriptions, advertising, and visits to our downtown home.
Join us at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 for our Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting, to be followed immediately by a 5-8 p.m. reception for our latest art exhibit featuring photographers Mark Cline and Vern Northrup.
Take home some sample copies if you are not yet a subscriber. You'll be delighted with our coverage mix: local and county politics and governance, community events, remarkable citizen profiles, church news, school, sports, environment and outdoors coverage, along with some unique columns from a locavore foodie as well as a retired but still incredibly curious science teacher.
We welcome your subscriptions, advertising, and purchases at our newsstands around town. And your ideas for stories, opinion columns and letters to the editor.
The Pine Knot News is 1 year old. We celebrate, but the real joy is in surviving and providing the local coverage the community deserves.