New publisher, new partner lead to opportunities

Farm Forum

It was a big news week inside the offices at the American News and Farm Forum last week.

Tuesday, we were able to release some information we had been working on for months. The news was bittersweet, but portends good things for our company in the coming months and years.

The pending sale of the Watertown Public Opinion to the parent company of the American News and Farm Forum is a giant positive for customers.

The work done by the Public Opinion is high-quality, and overlaps only a bit with the American News.

Together, under one umbrella, there are chances for each paper to become even better.

Aberdeen and Watertown are alike in many ways. The American News and Public Opinion are similarly sized papers, and are the two largest in all of northeast South Dakota.

Those similarities make this an intriguing proposition.

But be clear: This is not a merger. As Publisher Cory Bollinger (more on him in a second) says, this is a marriage. Two separate entities who have the opportunity to share for the greater good.

Readers may not be aware, but South Dakota newspapers already share quite a bit.

Watertown is a subscriber newspaper to the work of American News reporter Bob Mercer, for instance.

Bylines from Watertown and Aberdeen sports writers often appear in both papers, as Friday nights are busy with a lot of swapping of stories and photos for the next day’s sports sections.

And Farm Forum, that five-state behemoth, overlaps much of both papers’ territories.

At our Indiana papers — three within about an hour’s drive from each other — collaboration is key. The papers are independent, but with common missions. They share information and content and expertise, which leads to better products for all three markets.

When the South Dakota sale goes through, pending due diligence, longtime Watertown Public Opinion Publisher Mark Roby will be regional publisher for the Public Opinion, American News and Farm Forum, under the new umbrella SDMG — the Schurz Dakota Media Group.

With one leader at the helm, looking at the strengths of each property, there will certainly be some opportunity for collaboration.

Roby replaces Bollinger as publisher here in Aberdeen. Cory returns to our Indiana properties as regional publisher there.

I will end this column with a few words about Cory. He and I were at the same paper back in Bloomington, Ind., he as advertising director, me as assistant managing editor, among other jobs. Even back then (in the days of Cory with a full head of hair!), he was an energetic, creative and smart leader.

We were not surprised at our shop when he was offered the opportunity to be the publisher at the American News in 2010.

Cory took a chance hiring me on as editor later that year. As I told him on his final day here last week, it was a life-changing decision for my wife and me. I will be forever grateful for the chance he gave me to grow and learn and be a part of this incredible team in Aberdeen.

Rather than be too sad about my friend’s leaving, I am excited for the future for Aberdeen and Watertown, news and sports, print and digital, readers and advertisers. That was certainly Cory’s mode during his six years in South Dakota, and we will continue that trend going forward.

Follow @jjperry_AAN on Twitter, email or call 605-622-2300.