March 2, 2021

Jill Friesz acquired two new weekly newspapers in western North Dakota just months before the pandemic began, resulting in her overseeing four rural community newspapers serving 2,000 people.

The remoteness of the region largely spared the area during the initial months of the pandemic. As a result, community reactions ranged from canceling events to deeming the pandemic to be a hoax.

Although her bottom line wasn’t as impacted as others, Friesz found a creative way to make up for lost revenue by traveling 14 miles to the nearby lake. She then walked 10 miles delivering newspapers to all 44 lake cabins and offered a summer subscription.

“This lake has been here for all of the time I’ve been here, but I have never gone up there and just put the work into it,” she said. “And maybe it’s just time that we start looking at things differently and do things differently and change the way we can serve our readers.”

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the full transcript.

See the Grant County News from April 8, 2020.

See the Grant County News from April 22, 2020.

See the Grant County News from May 6, 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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