March 2, 2021

Jeremy Waltner is the second-generation publisher and editor of the Freeman Courier, a South Dakota weekly that has been in his family for over 35 years. Also the sole reporter for his community of 1,300,

Waltner has juggled the nonstop flow of news, the decline of advertising and his children doing remote learning at home. At the 100-day point of the pandemic, Waltner admitted he was scared for the future of his paper, which continues to operate today. But he was also heartened by the support of the local business community and determined to survive.

“That we’re in it for the long haul, that we’re in it for the good fight, that we’re going to continue to be there for you,” Waltner said of what he wanted readers to know. “Don’t know exactly what that format is going to look like. It might be different than what you’re used to, but we’re not going anywhere, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the transcript.

See the Courier from March 19, 2020.

See the Courier 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.

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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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