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Of People, Places and Things- The Journal's Birthday


Fri, Oct 11th, 2002
Posted in Columnists

Overheard at Wheelers Bar & Grill in Harmony a few weeks ago:Two older men are having lunch. One of the men asks another man who has just come into the restaurant what he has been doing all morning.“Reading the Journal,” was the man’s reply.“What are you going to be doing this afternoon?” the other of the two men asked.“Reading the Journal,” the man said matter of factly.

In the excitement of putting out a paper every week, we missed the Journal’s birthday a couple weeks ago. If you look at the upper top right area of the front page you’ll see that this paper, October 14, is Volume 18 Issue 2. Yes, two weeks ago we started our 18th year.Back in1985, a free paper was a novel idea, especially in a rural area. Shoppers had been around for quite awhile, but the idea of having advertising pay for the printing and delivery of a newspaper was a novel idea. Free papers, primarily covering arts and entertainment, were around in large urban areas. These were targeted primarily at young people. Many of the more news oriented free papers, like the Village Voice in New York, were considered a part of the alternative press, and often scooped the large corporate papers on political stories. Most of these free papers were not sent through the mails, but picked up by patrons at distribution racks.Larry Salge, the Journal editor and publisher in 1985 wrote: “We knew that if we charged for subscriptions we could not reach every home, because some people would not subscribe even if it cost just a dollar a year.”And, yet, the owners at that time knew that they would have to charge more for advertising than other papers in order to cover the costs of printing and mailing the papers out. It took considerable risk to bring out the Journal back then, not knowing whether local business would support this new effort.Clearly one of the goals of the Journal was to bring the communities of Fillmore County together by delivering county news to a regional readership that went beyond the individual coverage that town newspapers provided.Salge wrote at the time: “Our staff worked hard to come up with an idea that would work for Fillmore County, both for the consumers and the advertisers... We didn’t want the Journal to be just another Shopper.” The first issue of the Journal came out on September 30, 1985. It was 16 pages and reached 10,300 households. There was a feature story about the new town murals in Spring Grove and about the apple orchards of Fillmore County. The county commissioners were discussing whether to merge county corrections with Olmsted and Dodge counties and the 911 emergency system was being installed county-wide. The DNR was considering whether to buy Mystery Cave and were seeking public input. The Mill Street Mall in Rushford was scheduled to have their grand opening on October 4. And it was reported that Neoma Youngquist won top honors in the Most Delectable category at the Lanesboro Fall Fest, with her Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie. The Journal office started out in Harmony and moved to Preston at the beginning of January 1986 and has been based in Preston ever since. On its 17th birthday issue, September 31, 2002, the Journal was 40 pages in length and our main feature profiled the Great Barns of Fillmore County. We print 11,000 issues of the Journal each Friday night at the LaCrosse Tribune. The papers are then weighed and postage paid for third class mail at the Winona Post Office. The papers are then shipped to the Rochester Post Office on Saturday for delivery to area post offices on Mondays. Our circulation and distribution is determined by advertising, so while most people who live in Fillmore County receive the Journal free each week, some do not.In addition to approximately 9,300 free papers and over 500 paid subscriptions, nearly 1,000 Journals are distributed free each week at various locations in several area towns, including Chatfield, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Houston, Ostrander and Grand Meadow.If you get the Journal delivered free to your home, be sure to thank an advertiser. They are the ones that believed in the Journal seventeen years ago, and continue to do so today. And if you do pay to get the Journal, we think you are getting good value at $30 per year. The goals of the Journal have not changed much in 17 years. We still believe that there is a need to link our communities together by sharing news and information. “The Journal is unlike any other paper in Fillmore County,” Salge wrote 17 years ago. We still think that’s true today.

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