The future of southeast Minnesota’s largest media operation has seemed obvious for the last few years: the Rochester Post Bulletin was likely to be a casualty of the newspaper depression.
Two years ago, it dropped its printing schedule to just five days, last summer, a new publisher was named and by fall two of its top news editors had left, leaving a dwindling, but heroic, staff to crank out the daily miracle.
The owner said the moves would help the newspaper “prepare for the future.”
The future was selling it.
The new owner will be Forum Communications, the most dominant newspaper chain in Minnesota that has gobbled up many of the state’s papers and created a “sameness” from paper to paper by using more regional material to fill space while reducing local staff, and letting algorithms drive their websites, which can make “top stories” out of two year old material.
The move into a comparatively large media market in Minnesota gives Forum Communications the ability to bundle regional advertising by guaranteeing a larger readership.
The sale does not include the company’s printing plant or downtown office, which is significant since many newspaper deals are actually real estate plays. That sets the deal apart from the ones consummated by hedge funds, which aren’t particularly interested in the journalism, nor even the value newspapers bring to a community.
The sale ends an unusual record of ownership stability at the paper, which was last sold in 1977 when Len H. and Jean Alice Shaver Small, owners of the Small Newspaper Group located in Kankakee, IL., bought the paper. Their sons eventually took over the operation. The family has owned the Kankakee paper since 1903.
Post Bulletin President Len R. Small told the employees the new owners were “worthy custodians” of the company, the PB said in its statement, which doesn’t completely answer the pressing question of what will happen to many of them.