Wednesday, November 23, 2005


BUSINESS MODEL: Non-profit newspaper starts in rural Minnesota

Source: The Associated Press via Editor & Publisher

Residents get strong response to new, non-profit newspaper

While charges of U.S.-sanctioned torture and riots in Paris led newspapers
around the country during the second week of November, folks in Atwater
were reading about a $450 school levy hike and a friendly reminder about
winter street parking regulations. Small potatoes, maybe -- but a
refreshing change after a decade with no local newspaper. At a time when
the newspaper industry is struggling for relevance in a digital age, a
group of Atwater residents went in a different direction -- launching a
nonprofit newspaper staffed mostly with volunteers. "This past year has
been an act of faith," said Connie Feig, a nurse and the chairwoman of the
new paper's board of directors. "It's all come down to faith and belief in
the community, and what it will support." The Atwater Sunfish Gazette --
the name was picked in a contest -- published its first six-page edition
on Oct. 12, and has put out two biweekly issues since. It's mailed free to
the 1,100 residents of the 56209 zip code, bringing them the latest on a
proposed sewer line, a local FFA Organization award winner and the Atwater
Falcons football squad. The town's last paper, the Atwater Herald, folded
in the mid-'90s. The nearest daily, Willmar's West Central Tribune, is
about 15 miles west on Highway 12 in west-central Minnesota, but it only
covers the big stuff in this slowly declining farm town. "It was really
hard to get information about the school, about sports," said Laverne
Pickle, a retiree and 50-year resident.


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