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Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

Not Another One

Marvin Baker
 July 3, 2022
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Not another one…

There was a rumor floating around a couple of weeks ago that the Edgeley Mail newspaper was shuttered. This past week the official word came that yes, the weekly newspaper serving the community of Edgeley in LaMoure County, has shut its doors for the last time.

The North Dakota Newspaper Association publishes the NDNA Bulletin and the latest issue discusses the loss of yet another North Dakota newspaper.

The owner of the Mail, Patty Wood Bartle, put the paper up for sale some months ago and announced that she would like to retire. Nobody came forward so Patty closed the building on Main Street in Edgeley.

This is the exact same scenario that Rodney Huffman faced when he wanted to sell the Walhalla Mountaineer four years ago. He couldn’t find a buyer so he shut the doors and that Pembina County community of 1,000 near the Canadian border was left without a paper.

Down the road, however, is the Cavalier Chronicle, the official Pembina County newspaper. It absorbed any legal notifications that had to be published prior in the Mountaineer.

It’s a pretty good assumption that a similar situation will happen in Edgeley. The LaMoure Chronicle is down the road 20 miles and is the official LaMoure County newspaper. It will most likely pick up the legals like school board, city council, etc.

The next nearest newspaper is the Dickey County Leader in Ellendale and beyond that the Jamestown Sun, which is in Stutsman County.

This throws a monkey wrench into downtown Edgeley, but you can’t blame Bartle. She was ready to retire and most likely felt the same way I did when I retired a year ago. She loves community journalism, but has been doing it so long, she just got tired of it.

The surprising part of this scenario is that nobody came forward to purchase the Mail. I told my wife if I was 20 years younger I’d be all over it. The Mail is a small paper and a young journalist with ambition could have picked it up at a fair price, kind of like getting a starter home. It would be a great way to step into community journalism and instantly become a leader in a small community.

But nobody is interested and so the Mail becomes the latest victim of these disappearing newspapers across North Dakota.

This domino effect started with the Mountaineer, then the Dunn County Herald in Killdeer closed its doors, leaving Dunn County without a newspaper. The Beulah Beacon in nearby Mercer County then became Dunn County’s official county paper.

Following the Herald, the Cavalier County Republican in Langdon was shuttered. I spent four of the best years of my career at that newspaper and was shocked beyond belief when I got the news straight from the editor Lori Peterson.

Langdon was, by far, the largest of any of the aforementioned communities to lose its newspaper. With a population of approximately 1,800, that was a much bigger hit for Langdon’s Main Street than it was for Edgeley’s, Killdeer’s or Walhalla’s.

But the local radio station started a newspaper so the people of Langdon would have a publication. It’s called the Borderland Press.

Prior to those closures, it was the Berthold Tribune in 1985. I was in college studying journalism at the time and the Tribune was absorbed by The Kenmare News.

Unfortunately, this is a trend. Three years ago, I reported on the loss of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald in Saskatchewan. It had printed daily for 107 years when it closed, leaving the third largest city in Saskatchewan at 34,000 without a paper until an alternative publication was started.

Let’s just hope we don’t see this again for a very long time. Many North Dakota newspapers have made drastic changes to keep afloat in this digital world. The most obvious is the Fargo Forum, the largest newspaper in the state. It prints only two days a week and the other five are digital only.

What comes next, all digital? Doubtful! There are too many of us still around who like to sit down with our newspaper, smell the ink and sip on a cup of coffee.

marvin.baker@mydakotan.com

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