Saturday Single No. 689

I worked at a number of things during my professional career: college teacher, corporate researcher, skip-tracer, public relations writer, newspaper editor and reporter. If I am at base any of those things, it is that last. Even more than twenty years after I closed my final notebook, I am a reporter, a newspaperman.

That’s why the story published May 13 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune – headlined “Twin Cities weekly newspapers are shutting down in the face of pandemic” – was distressing. The newspaper business has been in crisis for some time, of course. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle on television and the availability of other news sources on the Internet, along with other factors, have made newspapers more vulnerable, dropping circulation and thus depressing ad revenue.

Then, as the piece notes, add the impact of Covid-19 to society in general and to the business sector particularly, and ad revenues drop even more. The story wasn’t surprising to me; I’ve noticed the Minneapolis paper becoming noticeably slimmer in the past two months, and Time magazine, too, is remarkably more slender when I take it from the mailbox. That revenues have been falling at community newspapers as well is not startling.

Just as distressing as the actual news about weekly papers in the Twin Cities area, however, were the personal connections. I’ve known reporters, editors and publishers at many of the newspapers mentioned in the piece, and one of the newspapers that recently closed was the Eden Prairie News, where I wrote for almost four years in the early 1990s.

In a lot of ways, those were good years for me: I was coming out of my wandering phase – I had moved seven times in a little less than four years, going from Minnesota to North Dakota back to Minnesota to Kansas to Missouri and finally back to Minnesota again – and was looking for a place to stay for a while, perhaps even thrive. Eden Prairie and its newspaper helped me do both. And I was saddened to see that the newspaper is gone and sad, too, to see that the vibrant city I enjoyed getting to know is now without a local paper.

I imagine the day will come when print news is dead instead of just dying, and it may come in my lifetime. Maybe I’m wrong. Actually, I think I am. I see the major national newspapers – the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and others – surviving, and maybe even the newsmagazines like Time will do so, too. But I expect that smaller cities and town will be without local papers, and I think that will include St. Cloud.

There are about 100,000 folks in the St. Cloud metro area, and for years, the St. Cloud Times – owned by the Gannett chain – has been struggling, downsizing office space and shedding staffers in an attempt to stay upright. Someday, I think, the corporation will pull the plug. And the same is going to happen, I think, to newspapers all over the country in a lot of medium-sized cities like St. Cloud. We’ll all be poorer for it.

So I looked on the digital shelves for a track with the word “sad” in the title, to match how I feel as I write this, and I came up with “Sad Wind,” a 1966 instrumental B-side from a group called the Imperial Show Band. It came to me through the massive Lost Jukebox collection, and though it doesn’t sound particularly sorrowful, it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Response to “Saturday Single No. 689”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    I took in the neighbors’ copy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for a couple of days last week and couldn’t believe how malnourished it had become. It couldn’t have weighed in at any more than about two ounces.

    The free bi-monthly neighborhood paper is planning on discontinuing its paper edition, in favor of going online. That’s just as well, since the paper editions were often stuffed inside the railing by the stairs along the public sidewalk, making them easy pickings for passersby.

    Although not related to the topic, your song choice reminded me of a song I heard often on Cities 97 back in the day: Jules Shear’s “The Sad Sound Of The Wind.”

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