Off the Record: History pages falling victim to COVID-19

No doubt, readers of The Journal have noticed the paper getting skinnier since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to close and people to shelter in place. You can chalk some of that up to fewer things to cover, especially in the area of sports. One sports page is more than enough when there are no games being played anywhere, local or professional.

But a lot of the paper shrinkage is due to the loss of advertising revenue. We decide each day how many pages we run based on the number and size of ads. So we have been forced to run smaller papers, combining some feature pages like Lifestyle and Food with regular news pages.

We have been forced to cut back on employee hours as well, furloughing some employees as the need for them dwindles.

This week we will be taking another step that will reduce our employee hours and newsprint consumption. Starting this weekend, The Journal is temporarily suspending the publication of the news from 100 and 50 years ago.

For the past few years, we have been publishing two full pages a week of local history from 100 and 50 years ago. This has been a very popular feature in the paper, and it has been enjoyable for us as well. I truly have developed a better understanding of New Ulm and its history by reading the news of 100 years ago, seeing firsthand how the town reacted to World War I and Prohibition. It has been fun reading about the rivalry between the two main papers, the Brown County Journal and the New Ulm Review. Their publishers had little liking for each other, and didn’t hesitate to lambaste each other in their columns.

When our publisher, Greg Orear, first arrived here, he added this feature to The Journal. He was confident, from his experience at other papers, that readers would love it and advertisers would be lining up to place their ads at the bottom of the history pages. Unfortunately, while readers do indeed love it, and keep telling me how much they enjoy it, local advertisers have not been that eager to support it. Most weeks we publish house ads on those pages.

As we are forced to continue to find ways to cut down the cost of printing and preserve our employee hours, we have decided, starting this weekend, to suspend the publication of the 100- and 50-year history pages, at least until this COVID-19 pandemic has passed and business starts to return to normal. I know this will not be popular with readers. But these are two pages that produce little or no revenue, and they take several hours a week of my time and a typist’s time to produce, time that needs to be spent elsewhere.

I hope this suspension will be temporary, and that we can get by without suspending other features that readers have come to rely on.

I appreciate your continued readership and support in these trying times.


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