Path for newspapers is taking shape

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Posted 2/13/18 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

Sometimes, it just takes looking at a problem in a new light to find a way forward.
At least, that’s how it seems after several months of lurching toward a new method of operations -- one that allows continued service of eastern Williams County readers of the Tioga Tribune, and readers of The Journal.
This is the second week we’ve combined several more pages of both newspapers, which run identically in each publication.
Meanwhile, as of this date, we have only one part time office person working in Tioga, JoEllen Volbrecht, so there will be some inconvenience to those stopping by for services like passport photos, bulk paper purchases and ordering of custom business printing. However, we’re also in constant touch with our Tioga operation -- through telephone and email -- which is how most of our advertising business is conducted these days.
The Tioga office will only be open Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the next two weeks. After that, the plan is to have a new full-time worker, my youngest daughter, Cathleen Wehrman.
Cathleen, just shy of her 20th birthday, started growing up fast after losing her dad to lung cancer, at the age of 16. She has worked since high school as a CNA, with a particular interest in Alzheimer’s care. Currently at her own career crossroads, and being quite a talented natural writer, she has decided to help me out by learning the operation in Tioga and trying her hand at some reporting.
Prior to recent years when we’ve been able to attract journalism graduates, we’ve successfully trained the craft of journalism to a number of people in the Tioga community, so it’s definitely doable.
Cathleen will be on the job Friday, Feb. 23, and will work in Tioga four days a week, driving in from Williston. Her ability to reflect back to residents what’s important in the community will hinge on her ability to make connections with people and the community’s willingness to share story ideas and information with a newcomer.
At the same time, we’re preparing to move the Tioga office to a space that will be very familar to longtime Tiogans -- the little corner office space to the west of the Tioga Theater -- coming full circle to where the Tribune was located when the Hornsteins operated it 25 years ago. We hope to be open there around March 1. 
At that location we’ll continue to offer color copy services and faxing. We’ll have a limited supply of printer paper available by the ream or by the case, will continue providing passport photograph processing, laminating, and also take in orders for custom business printing of invoices, envelopes, business cards and the like, just as we have in the past.
Next week, I’ll be talking with the Tioga City Commission, and a few weeks later, with the Ray City Commission, letting them know our plans for continued publication of public notices for the Tioga/Ray area. While the logistics of printing one newspaper to subscribers of both newspapers is still a possibility, the cost of doing so requires many calculations to determine feasibility.
As I’ve written previously, it’s an idea I’ve long flirted with, but it’s usually shut down by the possibility of harming something that’s working, rather than focusing on some really exciting positives -- which include growing to nearly double one of our newspapers -- The Journal -- and tweaking the focus to look at what all of the towns we serve have in common.
If the staffing situation in Tioga stabilizes, that could allow us to keep enough news for a stand-alone Tioga Tribune. Regardless, this exercise has made me mindful that, whether one newspaper or two, we’re trying to service people as far flung as Westby, Mont., to Tioga.
I’m convinced we can cover this region better than the regional dailies, with insight only those of us who live and work here can bring.