This past week, there was a buzz in the newspaper industry about a faux pas for The Hutchinson News located in Hutchinson, Kan.
They had a wonderfully designed front page showing a group of senior citizens kayaks on a lake in Hutchinson. The headline of the story read, “Engaged, happy and active.”
It was about all about how the Hutchinson Senior Center keeps seniors busy with array of activities… in Hutchinson, Minn.
Apparently, The Hutchinson News in Hutchinson, Kans., covers stories about what’s happening in Hutchinson, Minn. — 628 miles away.
How could this happen? What do the readers of the newspaper in Hutchinson, Kans., think about receiving a newspaper that covers news in Hutchinson, Minn.?
This newspaper is owned by one of the corporations I spoke about a few weeks ago. In a city of more than 39,000 population, they have an editor and an advertising sales representative on their staff directory. That’s it. Two people.
For the community of Hutchinson, Kans., it’s an absolute disaster with what has happened to their local newspaper. Gannett bought the newspaper from the Harris family in 2016 and ran it into the ground rather quickly. They laid off nearly all of the staff that made this a once Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper.
When you cut staff like Gannett/GateHouse Media has done at every newspaper they have acquired, you end up with a diminished product. Then you lose readers and eventually advertisers.
In some cases, Gannett is having a reporter who doesn’t live in the community write the stories. They are living in other states and writing about what is happening in a community in which they have no connection. The designers working on the layout of the publication don’t live in that area either.
The story on the front page of The Hutchinson News that had nothing to do with Hutchinson, Kans., is the result of a media company that is completely disconnected with the communities they serve. And, this is one of the many problems with newspapers owned by corporations. They don’t care about the communities they serve. They only care about satisfying shareholders.
Back in 2020, the Advocate-Messenger located in Danville, Ky., eliminated all of their local sports reporters. They laid off four reporters and started running advertisements asking parents to submit pictures and write-ups about their kids playing sports.
As one of the terminated sports reporters said in a news interview, “It’s going to be a lot of bias. Parents of kids, they want to make their kid look best.” In other words, the newspaper had given up on legitimate sports coverage. It was going to be all about which parents wanted their son or daughter to receive recognition in the newspaper.
We recently received an email from one of the student athletes we have covered for a few years. Here’s what the Kingsland High School graduate said in his e-mail to one of our team members.
“Good Evening, I know this email isn’t for personal use but I had no other form of communication with you. I just wanted to say thank you for all of the amazing write ups and pictures you have created over the years. It may just be a job to you, but it means a lot to me. You have always talked of my name so highly in the paper and I just wanted to do the bare minimum back. Thanks again.”
What we do matters, and a message like this validates the relevant work we do each and every week. Thank you for the thank you!
Fortunately, the Fillmore County Journal is a local family-owned newspaper supported by readers and advertisers like yourself. And, we are blessed with talented local writers who care about the communities they serve.
We have reporters attending government meetings to keep the public informed, and they are oftentimes the only member of the community sitting in the audience. We have our sports reporters and photographers capturing amazing moments at high school sporting events, so everyone can see who made the newspaper the following week. We have photographers working together to cover homecoming, prom and graduation events, so photos can be captured and shared on the pages of the newspaper.
It takes dedication from every member of the team at a local level. We care. We want every name correctly spelled. We want our photos to be the best possible quality, so these can be keepsake moments. This is what it means to be a local newspaper. Serving the people of our community is our legacy.
Just for Fun
After seeing this Hutchinson, Minn., story land on the front page of the Hutchinson, Kans., newspaper, I was curious about how many cities with the same name are represented in our area throughout the United States of America.
There are nine cities named Hutchinson in the United States, located in Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
Here’s how many sister cities each of our communities has in the United States.
• Brownsville: 28
• Canton: 28
• Caledonia: 16
• Chatfield: 4
• Eitzen: 1
• Fountain: 11
• Grand Meadow: 1
• Harmony: 28
• Hokah: 1
• Houston: 20
• La Crescent: 1
• Lanesboro: 4
• LeRoy: 6
• Mabel: 7
• Ostrander: 4
• Peterson: 11
• Preston: 28
• Rushford: 2
• Spring Grove: 14
• Spring Valley: 28
• Wykoff: 1
Congratulations to Eitzen, Grand Meadow, Hokah, La Crescent, and Wykoff! You are one of one. Meanwhile, there are 46 cities named Riverside in the United States. Interesting.