MINNPOST: Against the odds: How Minnesota’s community newspapers hold on in the digital age

By Gregg Aamot

Reed Anfinson, the publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News, a weekly newspaper in west-central Minnesota, often sits alone in the audience at civic board meetings. At one gathering of the Benson City Council, he recalls, the city manager introduced the council members and staff workers to a consultant who was listening on the other end of a conference call. Then, looking across several rows of chairs that sat empty, save for Anfinson, he added, “and the newspaper, representing the people of Benson.”

Meager attendance at public hearings is nothing new, especially when the topics can be as mundane as fixing streets or approving parade routes. Often, the local newspaper reporter is the only one there to bear witness to the public’s business. And if no reporters are around, Anfinson often asks, “Who will hold power accountable?”

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