The Grand Forks Herald, a Forum Communications newspaper, is located at 375 Second Ave. North, Grand Forks, N.D.
While The Herald has fewer people in operations and on the newsroom editing staff than in the past, Stromsodt says the newspaper has tried to retain its reporting staff and its focus on community content, “an area where we know we have to be strong.” (Click on Enterprise Stories to read a sample of The Herald’s local coverage, and click on Story of the Newspaper to hear about the impact of the 1997 Red River flood and the subsequent fire.)
The Herald is “unified in our online effort,” says Ad Director Zach Ahrens. “Every department is involved.” Stromsodt also says the push for online is a big thing. She describes The Herald’s website as dynamic and always changing. “It’s been a sea change in a short amount of time,” she says.
Both Stromsodt and Ahrens acknowledge that the transition to digital has been difficult for some employees.
Ahrens needed to teach his ad staff online newspapers are here to stay. “Some of the veteran staff thought, ‘If we just wait this out – it’s the latest fad – it will go away.’” Ahrens corrected them. “This is important” and it’s permanent, he said. An accelerated bonus plan incentivizes The Herald sales staff to sell both print and online ads, and The Herald’s parent company, Forum Communications, set a goal for each of its newspapers to generate 20 percent of its ad revenue from online business by 2012. The Herald currently leads the group in attaining that goal, according to Editor/Publisher Mike Jacobs.
In Part 2: “Ethics and Content,” of his video interview, Mike Jacobs explains why The Herald doesn’t have a written code of ethics and how the newspaper deals with anonymous reader comments. In Part 3: “Strategic Changes,” Jacobs describes Area Voices - an online initiative by Forum Communications to create extensive community content for its newspapers in a four-state area.
To hear anecdotes of when the power and purpose of journalism became clear to Jacobs, Stromsodt and Ahrens, click on Journalists’ Epiphanies (J-Epiphanies on the toolbar).
Coming Next: The Grand Forks Herald is the 50th newspaper in our 50-state report on U.S. newspapers. But there is more to come such as next week’s Bonus Interview with Joel Kramer, editor and CEO, www.MinnPost.com. Please follow us and comment on Facebook.
-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle