March 2, 2021

Dave Bordewyk is former executive director of the nonprofit South Dakota News Watch and current executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

Just weeks into the pandemic, two of the state’s newspapers closed after 140 years in business. For Bordewyk, it was a personal loss since his first job was at the Lake Preston Times. It was also a wake-up call as the state’s director overseeing 122 newspapers. Like other states, South Dakota newspapers saw furloughs, page reductions, reduced print editions and 50% declines in advertising. More than three-fourths participated in the Paycheck Protection Program.

Yet there were also heartening examples of residents rising to the challenge to replace the lost newspapers with a new endeavor and of readers stepping up to subscribe, donate and thank local journalists.

“I think the pandemic has sort of really brought this home in terms of how essential they can be as a newspaper within their community in terms of informing their local residents with important information,” Bordewyk said.

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the transcript.

Read a story from the South Dakota Newspaper Association from April 4,2020.

Read a piece from the South Dakota News Watch from April 16, 2020.

See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.

Correction: An earlier version of this story confused Bordewyk’s current and former roles. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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Teri Finneman is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas. She previously worked as a print journalist and multimedia correspondent covering state…
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