Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cooperative weekly newspaper strives to stay alive

Reporters and stringers at the 7,666 circulation weekly (Inter-County Leader) scour the small towns in Polk and Burnett counties. They cover everything from elections (officials drew a name from a box to break a tie for Grantsburg Village Board) to youth hunting (Jake Hunter of Webster bagged his first wild turkey). And there is copious space set aside for letters to the editor (Kathy Niles in Frederic wanted everyone to know her husband, Marty, was progressing slowly from an illness).

For decades, the mixture of the homespun with the hard sell has sustained the business.

But this year, the co-op, formally known as the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association, faces one of its most daunting tasks since it was founded by local farmers in the depths of the Great Depression: making money.

"I'm not even sure we'll have a profit," says Doug Panek, the co-op's manager. "We're five months into our (fiscal) year and we're in a hole."

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