The Wadena News closes after 115 years

After 115 years in business, the Wadena News published its last edition on February 27, 2023.

We’re sharing the full text of the publication’s final editorial because it is so poignantly worded, we couldn’t have said anything better ourselves.

After 115 years in business serving the local communities, and 20 years personally, sadly we announce this is our last issue.

The Wadena News has celebrated births, marriages, and new business ventures, recording personal and community tragedies, accidents, plane crashes, Main Street fires and train derailments. It has been the central source of information for the communities we serve.

In 1908, Alex Thom first set up a newspaper shop in Quill Lake but saw that Wadena, at the time, was growing at a much faster rate. So he moved operations to set up the Wadena Herald in a small wooden building on the corner of First Street NE and First Ave.

Today, things have progressed from the extremely laborious setting of lead type in individual rows into a wooden frame and fitted onto an ink-laden press to a clean process involving electronics, vegetable-based inks and ultraviolet lights at the top of a printing tower. Advertising graced every page in black and white until colour eventually made its way into the ink world, then to the sharp, four-colour digital processes we enjoy today.

Advertising and getting the message out to a captive local audience has been the backbone of this business. As the adage goes, nothing happens without it. With the dawn of the internet, websites and social media came new ways to communicate plus the push to grow and dominate, shoving aside other forms of media, predominantly newspapers and magazines, regardless of their proven performance to reach the audience. With this growth came fractured audiences, missed messages, misinformation, ‘fake’ impressions on in the form of ‘bots’ (fake viewers), and the mining of personal data for money.

Unlike newspapers or magazines, smartphone apps and social media all collect data, with or without the consumer’s knowledge. We recently discovered that the app, affectionately known as TikTok, uses camera and voice applications on smartphones to record reactions to the viewed videos. The app sends that data off to TikTok to be used to ‘enhance the viewer’s experience’ and to push more of whatever subject onto the viewer through its algorithms.

After reading this, we checked our smartphones to learn that all apps installed appear to default to the “on” setting for both camera and voice. All were then immediately turned to “off .” If you read the fine print, you will find that your data on any social media belongs to that platform. You are being bought and sold whether you know it or not. It is now the juice that local businesses and organizations have chosen to drink. Social media has replaced the local newspaper regarding messaging, instead of being used alongside the local newspaper to inform, educate – and advertise.

In essence, cheap and nasty has now replaced local paid for advertising. We say cheap because it’s free (a matter of perspective) – and only for now. Nasty, because American billionaires run the social media platforms with no regard for the local market. When did Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Twitter last donate to your local event? The only thing they want from you is your data. We also say nasty because these platforms have been proven corrupt in their business practices and promote misinformation and hate, a practice for which newspapers would be sued.

As a result, there will be no more searching the archives for interesting tidbits of local history that only the Wadena News provides; for that winning team picture you were in during high school; for the proof that a fire decades ago could have exposed you to enough chemicals to warrant compensation; or for the obituary of a long lost loved one (all genuine searches).

Instead of keeping it local first and openly public to a captive audience (7900 within our direct readership area, not to mention those who live beyond), businesses and organizations have chosen popularity over practical, fake over formidable, and frivolous over fundamental, when they should have done both to achieve maximum marketing effect. Even the town, including also those surrounding, chose not to engage their local newspaper first, and instead reported and/or advertised instead on social media.

Like anything else, a quality local newspaper (local business) costs money: it takes a person to answer the phone, drive out to report on an event, write it up and process photos, manage the website, create the graphics, and lay it out on a page, bundle it for mailing, email digital subscribers, manage the subscription lists, along with every other aspect of running a small business. But as a result of this migration to the belief that cheap and nasty is better for the community as a whole, the Wadena News has been forced to close its doors and the public will no longer have the opportunity to celebrate your successes.

We heartily thank our readers, who have stuck with us and appreciate the support we have received, whether it was a phone call, an email, or a hand-written note. We are particularly appreciative of our regular advertisers who have continued to believe in “keeping their name out there.”

UPDATE: March 23: Senator Pamela Wallin spoke in the Senate about the closure of the Wadena News. You can watch her full statement below