Minnesota Premier Publications at the end of the year will stop publishing the Southwest Journal, one of the last neighborhood newspapers in the Twin Cities, along with Minnesota Parent and Minnesota Good Age magazines.
The couple who started and own the company, Janis Hall and Terry Gahan, are seeking a buyer for it. A deal fell apart in March after the coronavirus outbreak began to create economic uncertainty. Since then, the firm has contended with a steep drop in advertising sales, its main source of revenue.
“We got some government money and we had donations, so we got some money in,” Hall said Thursday. “But the sales are just falling off to an extent that we can’t keep up anymore. Terry and I had been thinking about retiring, so it just seemed like the time to do it.”
Southwest Journal, which anchored the business, for 30 years has been an influential voice in Minneapolis with its coverage of civic groups, schools, parks and real estate developments in the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.
At a time when dozens of neighborhood papers peppered the region, Southwest Journal grew to a circulation of 33,000 and won several statewide journalism awards, often beating other publications on controversies involving Minneapolis officials and planners.
The paper flourished in the 1990s, an era when Minneapolis neighborhood groups were flush with city funds for urban renewal, and Southwest Journal acted as a watchdog.
“They tried to send reporters to every neighborhood meeting in town,” said David Brauer, who edited the paper for several years in the early 2000s. “That was an incredible grassroots, local thing to do. What they got out of that was a lot of scoops about things out of City Hall, about a lot of developments and controversial city issues.”
Hall attributed the firm’s success to Southwest Journal’s reliance on a full-time staff of journalists.
“We were small and scrappy,” she said. “And the neighborhoods were vibrant.”
The company in 2001 bought another local paper, called Skyway News, gave it the name Downtown Journal and replicated the formula honed in the Southwest Journal. It stopped publishing that paper in late 2018, also amid a drop in advertising.
Southwest Journal will lay off its reporting team by the end of the month and, for the first time in its history, will rely on freelancers to write during its final weeks. Its editors and designers will work until the end of the year. Minnesota Parent and Minnesota Good Age will each produce one more bimonthly edition, Hall said.
“We feel a lot of gratitude for our employees, advertisers and readers,” Hall said. “It’s gone so far beyond what we could have expected in 1990. I do hope it continues. I still believe in community journalism.”