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Newspapers in Perham, New York Mills to merge into regional newspaper

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Folks...there's no sense going into a long introduction.

I'm here to tell you that starting Oct. 1, there's a new newspaper coming to your neighborhood.

It's a regional newspaper with a circulation nearing 5,000--and a total readership of more than 15,000.

This will be an East Otter Tail newspaper. Its mission: To keep you informed about news, happenings, trends and people whether you live in rural Richville or downtown New York Mills; the city of Perham, or on Otter Tail Lake.

Beginning Oct. 1, the Perham Enterprise Bulletin and the New York Mills Herald will become one. One paper, one region--the East Otter Tail lake region.

If this sounds like I'm trying to put a positive spin on a sad story about the merger of two newspapers--each with a history of more than a century--you are correct.

But is it really a sad story?

Is change necessarily a bad thing?

Could it be that one, stronger regional newspaper will be a more useful, dynamic and influential tool in helping build the East Otter Tail area?

Can two smaller papers, scraping by in difficult economic times, survive separately?

The past year has been a challenging one for businesses everywhere--globally, nationally, regionally and locally.

East Otter Tail has shining examples of businesses that are thriving, despite the economic downturn.

But there are others that have not fared as well.

Among them are your local newspapers.

Challenges facing the newspaper business; and really, mass media in general; have been widely publicized. In reality, mass media revenues have been in decline--long before the current recession took hold.

As I write this, I just learned that "Reader's Digest" filed for bankruptcy.

Smaller publishing operations in rural America are not at all immune to the same economic pressures facing the magazines and big daily newspapers.

Certainly, the Perham Enterprise Bulletin and the New York Mills Herald are no exception to those challenges.

Let's be up front about a couple things:

Most of us are aware that there has been animosity between New York Mills and Perham over the years.

Well folks, it's time to get over it.

In the changing economic landscape ahead of us, we simply need to take a regional view of our area. What is good for New York Mills is good for Perham. What is good for Perham is good for Ottertail. And vice-versa.

The newspaper, I firmly believe, can help build a regional "brand name" like East Otter Tail. The newspaper can also be a positive force in bringing people together for the common good. I've witnessed this in various newspaper markets that I've had the privilege of serving.

Consider the "Feed My Starving Children" hunger-fighting campaign last spring. It was headquartered and spearheaded in Perham--but there was representation from Ottertail, Dent, New York Mills and just about everywhere in between.

I would be thrilled if New York Mills residents would travel more frequently to visit the Veterans Museum; to shop at our unique speciality stores.

I would be equally thrilled to see more Perham-area faces at New York Mills Regional Cultural Center concerts. And while there for a Cultural Center event, check out the two fine eateries within walking distance: Eagles Cafe and the Creamery coffee shop.

How many Perham folks work over at the Lund Boats plant in Mills?

How many NY Mills people commute over to Barrel O' Fun in Perham?

How many Ottertail and Dent area residents are commuting to those towns?

How many Perham area Germans have married NY Mills Finns?

An anecdote: A couple weeks back, we published a story about Miss New York Mills, who has the distinction of being an amateur boxer. We placed it in both newspapers, and on our Web site. It was extremely well-read, by readers across city limits and township borders.

Not long after the edition hit the newsstands, I overheard a couple Perham folks talking about the "boxing beauty queen."

I was a little concerned that they would complain about reading NY Mills news in the Perham newspaper. Well, it turned out that Miss NY Mills Taylor Geiser also has relatives and friends in Perham--and her unusual "boxing royalty" story was of interest to everybody.

But beyond the fun, human interest articles, we believe that a combined East Otter Tail paper will play a role in illuminating important issues that are of a common concern to the area--whether you live in NY Mills or Richville.

There are only a few things you can be assured of in life: Death, taxes...and change.

There are other changes ahead as well for your local newspaper. We are exploring the idea of moving the publication day for our new, combined East Otter Tail newspaper--from Thursday to Saturday. More on that at some other time.

Rest assured: You will have a newspaper. But you know something? With a regional publication, you may also gain some new friends and neighbors.

Louis Hoglund is the editor of the Perham Enterprise Bulletin.