Forum Communications to buy Duluth and Grand Forks papersby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio,
Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
Fargo based Forum Communications Company will buy the Grand Forks Herald, a North Dakota rival, and the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota.
The company owns nearly 30 newspapers in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin.
Moorhead, Minn. — The sale agreement apparently ends a transition period for the Grand Forks Herald the Duluth News Tribune. Both are owned by Knight Ridder, which earlier this year agreed to sell the papers to the McClatchy Company. McClatchy immediately announced its intent to sell several of the Knight Ridder papers to pay off part of the debt from the purchase.
The Fargo Forum and the Grand Forks Herald have been competitors for many years. They're the two largest newspapers in North Dakota. Now they'll be owned by the same company.
But Herald Editor and Publisher Mike Jacobs thinks the papers will still be competitive.
Jacobs says the Herald is fortunate to be purchased by a solid company that cares about news.
"Change is difficult, all the time," he says. "This is pretty big change. But compared to some of the outcomes, this is pretty good. We're pretty excited about it."
When asked what would have been a really bad outcome, Jacob responds quickly.
"We could have been sold to an equity firm that wanted to drain all the life out of the paper and the money out of the town. That did not happen."
Jacobs says he's not sure what changes will be in store for the Herald. He says Forum Communications President and C-E-O William Marcil is scheduled to meet with Herald staffers.
Marcil was not available for comment, but released a statement saying Grand Forks Herald and the Duluth News Tribune are each great newspapers, with a strong heritage of committed journalism, and will fit well with Forum Communications.
Duluth News-Tribune publisher Marti Buscaglia says she's very pleased with the sale. She says Forum Communications shares the values she wants the newspaper to have.
"An investment in the newspapers, an investment in the community," she says. "They believe in the publisher and the employees being very active in the community and giving back which has been our tradition here and it's nice that will be continued."
The President of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild is less excited. Steve Kuchera hoped the winning bidder would be the international newspaper union and its financial backers Yucaipa. But he says the Fargo Forum has a good reputation.
"We're guardedly optimistic. The real test will come as we see further down the line if they're willing to invest in the paper and how they treat the workers," Kuchera says.
Analysts say Forum Communications has a solid reputation for good journalism.
Kathleen Hanson is Journalism Professor at the University of Minnesota and Director of the Minnesota Journalism Center.
She says readers in Grand Forks and Duluth may not notice much difference.
"They're not one of the companies that has a reputation for coming in and slashing and burning," she says. "They do have a commitment to this business and I think they've apparently said the right things in what they intend to do in investing in their properties, in making sure they're doing good journalism as well as providing advertisers good value for their messages." Hanson says advertisers may see rates increase if competition is reduced as a result of the Forum Communications expansion.
Hanson says the how well readers and advertisers in Grand Forks and Duluth are served in the future will depend on how much Forum Communications invests in newspapers they've added to company.
- Morning Edition, 06/08/2006, 7:50 a.m.
Dan Gunderson is based in Moorhead, Minn.