It was with great sadness that I read the announcement from the Southwest Journal this month that the longtime Minneapolis newspaper will be shutting down operations at the end of this year. Their last issue will be published right before Christmas.
The Southwest Journal has been without question a respected community newspaper that not only served its readers admirably during its tenure, but it also has been a great marketing vehicle for its advertisers. Known for well researched articles and well read by its readers, it also was an important part of the community fabric of southwest Minneapolis.
I wish owners Terry Gahan and Janis Hall the very best going forward, along with their talented staff of writers, designers, and salespeople. I had to smile when I read on their website about the early days of the Journal and how their original base of operations was the kitchen table of their Linden Hills home. It reminded me of my first internship in journalism back in 1976, when I worked for the editor of the former North End News in St. Paul, Lee Svitak Dean, who likewise pasted up the layout for the paper on her own kitchen table. Something tells me that many community newspapers got their start in that very same manner.
This recent chapter with COVID-19 and all the unrest in South Minneapolis has underscored the need for community journalism now more than ever before. Residents and business owners need to know what’s happening in their neighborhood and they need to have a mechanism to engage in their community – and a community newspaper like the Messenger provides that vital link.
Inside the pages of the Messenger each month you read about the important work that’s being done to rebuild South Minneapolis. The stories of neighbors and other concerned citizens not only picking up brooms to clean up after the looting in Minneapolis, but diving in during the weeks following to figure out how to put South Minneapolis back together again, to rebuild those businesses and lives disrupted during the tumult.
We can’t deny it’s been a challenging time financially for the newspaper industry. In addition to the trends in national advertising over the last few years, we also are keenly familiar with the plight of local businesses in Longfellow and Nokomis who have had to shut their doors during COVID-19. Some have reopened and are back in business full strength. Others are dealing with capacity restrictions where they can only serve so many customers in their operation at one time. Others are still making plans to reopen their businesses at a later date.
I know the struggles these businesses face are real and they need the support of the good people of Longfellow and Nokomis. Of all the neighborhoods I’ve covered as a journalist over the years, I have seen how Longfellow and Nokomis residents in particular have a strong symbiotic relationship with the business owners down the street from them. And I see that firsthand as a board member of the Longfellow Business Association. Residents realize that they need a strong business climate for a strong community overall. And business owners know that they need a strong residential community for their businesses to thrive and prosper.
The Messenger, likewise, needs the support of both residents and business owners, to continue to do the job that we’re doing providing the news about what’s happening in your community. We know our readers are devoted to the Messenger. That’s why the Messenger continues to be one of the neighborhood newspapers that will be delivered door-to-door in your neighborhood so everyone has equal access to it. And we know that our advertisers are committed to reaching the Messenger audience with their promotions because they need that continued community support.
But just know this: The Messenger appreciates that all of you are behind us to continue to do the important job we’re doing in Longfellow and Nokomis. You need to know that all of you are a vital part of our operation. If you’re a reader, by all means continue to share Messenger stories with others, either via print or digitally through Facebook, Instagram, on our website, or through word of mouth. And be sure to let our advertisers know that you appreciate their continued presence in the Messenger.
If you’re an advertiser who’s business has struggled during the pandemic and haven’t been able to advertise as much as in the past, we get it: There’s no question that many businesses are in the midst of trying to rebuild their client base. The Messenger will be there when you’re ready to create that pathway for the future to rebuild your business.
But just know that we believe that for all these reasons, the Messenger is more important now than ever before as a community newspaper in South Minneapolis. And likewise, your support is more important than ever before as well. Thanks for being an important part of our past and thanks for playing an important part in our future.