On September 11, 2023, Jason Sethre, publisher of the Fillmore County (MN) Journal, posted an op-ed with the headline: "One Moment, Please… Hutchinson News in Kansas or Minnesota?" Within the piece, he reported that subscribers to the Hutchinson (KS) News were greeted one day with a front page showing a group of senior citizens having an outing on a lake in Hutchinson, Minnesota, with a headline of a story showing how the Hutchinson Senior Center keeps seniors busy with an array of activities… in Hutchinson, Minnesota.
With a satirical slant, Sethre wrote, "Apparently, The Hutchinson News in Hutchinson, Kansas, covers stories about what's happening in Hutchinson, Minnesota — 628 miles away.” However, he explained to his readers how once-thriving newspapers, bought by large corporations (in this case, Gannett), have downsized operations so much that there is minimal local reporting, and mistakes such as this made by an out-of-town editor can happen. Sethre wrote, "For the community of Hutchinson, Kansas, it's an absolute disaster with what has happened to their local newspaper. Gannett bought the newspaper from the Harris family in 2016 and ran it into the ground rather quickly. They laid off nearly all the staff that made this once Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper.” He added that staff "live in other states and write about what is happening in a community in which they have no connection. The designers working on the publication layout don't live in that area either. The story on the front page of The Hutchinson News that had nothing to do with Hutchinson, Kansas, is the result of a media company that is completely disconnected from the communities they serve. And this is one of the many problems with newspapers owned by corporations. They don't care about the communities they serve. They only care about satisfying shareholders.”
However, all is not lost for the citizens of Hutchinson, Kansas, because 16-year-old high school student Michael Glenn has launched a new online-only news publication — The Hutchinson Tribune, which now covers important meetings, elections, culture and even high school sports for this community of over 40,000. Using Substack for a CMS, the Tribune now offers the news people crave, plus provides a subscription plan for expanded content for as low as $8 a month. In addition, Glenn has recruited several adult reporters to submit content to the venture.
Is there a benefit to visiting this new site for a Hutchinson resident who craves a local journalistic voice?
On the day of this posting, the Gannett-owned Hutchinson News (HutchNews.com) had only six stories posted within one week that reported on a local city issue or included a local Hutchinson source or event. The new Tribune site had 27 articles, two op-eds and seven local sports pieces. Plus, if you click on any local headline on the news site, you hit the Gannett hard paywall, asking for just 23 cents a week to get the two weekly issues of the printed paper, see USA Today's digital crossword and see all the "features" of an undefined "Essential Digital." For an additional $1, you can get six months of site content and the newspaper's digital replica as well.
However, all the stories on HutchTribune.com can be accessed up to the 1st four paragraphs. However, each page has a plea to subscribe and contribute to support the site.
In this episode of "E&P Reports," we go one-on-one with 16-year-old Hutchinson, Kansas high school student Michael Glenn, who became frustrated when his local Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, The Hutchinson News, was sold to Gannett and downsized over a few years to a "ghost paper" of two local employees, with most content being generated from out of state. So, in the summer of 2023, Glenn recruited a team of journalists and started the competing Hutchinson Tribune at HutchTribune.com, which now out-reports the HutchNews.com site 36 local stories to six (on the day of this posting).
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