North Country Newspapers: Alive and Well Read

  • By John Ryan

Newspapers are one of the most important means of communication in our society. Their reporting safeguards our freedoms and the stories they carry enrich our lives. The North Country has been fortunate enough to be the home of several strong daily and weekly newspapers, all guided by experienced and dedicated professionals. This month SB interviewed the publishers of six of our daily and weekly newspapers – altogether these papers print almost 275,000 issues every week for our edification and enjoyment. We interviewed publishers of the Press Republican, Denton Publications, the Lake Champlain Weekly, the Lake Placid News, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, and the Tupper Lake Free Press.

The Press Republican

The Press Republican has the North Country’s largest circulation and is the most recognized daily newspaper. The paper, as we know it today, dates to 1942 when the Plattsburgh Daily Republican and the Plattsburgh Daily Press merged. Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., a division of Dow Jones and Company, Inc. owns the Press Republican.

Bob Parks, the Press Republican’s president and publisher, came to Plattsburgh in 2000. His love for newspapers began in college when he edited his college newspaper. For the past 30 years, he has worked in advertising and publish-ing for several of Ottaway’s weekly and daily newspapers At the Press Republican, Parks leads a newspaper declaring its daily circulation at 20,000 and Sunday circulation at 22,000.

Keeping up with the latest technology and change has characterized Park’s time in Plattsburgh. He says one of his biggest challenges has been to “keep everything in place and moving along.” During the past few years, the Press Republican has installed a ‘computer to plate’ (CTP) system designed to reduce costs and increase productivity. CTP is a printing prepress process in which a digital image is transmitted directly from a computer to a plate used on a press. Parks says it eliminates the need for the chemistry and negatives traditionally involved in producing a printing plate. A new four-color state of the art sheetfed printing press has also been installed.

The Press Republican has fully embraced the internet under Park’s leadership. He calls “probably the most dynamic website in the North Country.” Parks says the site has almost 250,000 visits each month and 1.4 million monthly page visits. While some newspapers have been hesitant about posting news stories on the web for free viewing, Parks believes that internet users “will read the newspaper for more depth and photos.” Likewise, he sees the website as a place where the paper can post reports and statistics which are too voluminous for the newspaper. New additions to the website include a blog in which local personality Foxy Gagnon reminisces about local happenings and sports memories. Visitors also have the ability to view and buy the newspaper’s published and unpublished photographs at its online Photo Gallery.

Denton Publications

While Parks leads our region’s most visible daily newspaper, Dan Alexander is the owner and publisher of our region’s most visible weeklies. Denton Publications prints 104,000 newspapers every week at its Elizabethtown headquarters building. Denton’s New York newspapers have a circulation of just over 65,000. They include Clinton County Today, The North Countryman, the Times of Ti, the Adirondack Journal, the Valley News, and Tri-Lakes Today. Denton also publishes three similar papers that reach an additional 40,000 households in northeastern Vermont.

Alexander has more than 25 years experience in daily and weekly newspaper management experience. He became part owner of Denton Publications in 1988 and the sole owner of the New York papers in 2000.

It’s no surprise that Alexander is an enthusiastic advocate of weekly and specifically free weekly newspapers. He said that, across the United States, there are 77 million free weekly papers printed versus 14 million dailies and that many daily newspapers have declining circulations. Alexander said, “Younger readers are just not tuning in. Young people are internet oriented and used to getting their information for free.” Denton Publications uses the U.S. Postal Service to deliver its free papers to the vast majority North Country households. Alexander says independent surveys indicate that 99.4 percent of North Country households receive one of his papers and 79.9 percent of those receiving a paper read or look through them.

While Clinton County Today started as a weekly shopper, most of Denton’s newspapers have always been small town newspapers, dedicating their news coverage to the happenings in a small town. Alexander said he considers local news coverage both his papers’ strength and weakness. He says his papers are working hard to expand local coverage, but he emphasized, “Our challenge is to find advertising support that allows us to get better every week.” While Denton Publica-tions does have a corporate website, Alexander says he doesn’t know if he will be moving newspaper content to the web.

Lake Champlain Weekly

Lake Champlain Weekly has only existed for six years, but its weekly circulation figures of 15,000 to 18,000 means it’s one of the larger circulation newspapers in the North Country. Published by Studley Printing and Publishing in Platts-burgh, Lake Champlain Weekly is distributed as a free newspaper in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties, Northern Vermont and to an English-speaking community in Southern Quebec. Publisher Bridgette Studley told SB one-third of each week’s issues are “mailed to select neighborhoods while the rest are distributed by demand distribution” (meaning readers pick them up at grocery stores or local businesses). She said Lake Champlain Weekly focuses on regional histo-ry, culture and the arts. Every historical article is somehow related to the North Country even though the story’s setting may be far away. Studley also said the paper’s strong editorial page has been an important factor in its success.

Love him or hate him, conservative columnist Rick Smith has a wide following, along with political writers Ken Wi-becan and Quentin Langley, sports writer Mark Sudal and editorialist Caroline Kehne. Studley also believes the newspa-per’s twenty contributing writers “give us a fresh perspective every week.”

Lake Placid News/Adirondack Daily Enterprise

In the Lake Placid-Saranac Lake Region the hometown newspapers are the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. They are owned by Ogden Newspapers, Inc., a family owned newspaper group headquartered in Wheeling, WV. Publisher Catherine Moore has dedicated her professional career to the papers. She started in circulation and sales and was promoted to publisher in 1989.

Moore describes the Lake Placid News as a community weekly newspaper that looks to keeping the visitor well in-formed. In a given week, the News might cover anything from downhill ski racing at Whiteface to the ballet at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Surprisingly, 1,500 to 2,000 of its 4,000 subscribers live outside the Lake Placid Region.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is a daily newspaper with a circulation of 5,300. It covers local news in more depth and detail than its sister paper and incorporates more Tupper Lake regional news.

If the February 17-February 23rd

edition is any example, the Lake Placid News is not afraid to spend money to

produce a quality publication. Most of its photos were in full color and it had three sections including a ten-page section devoted to the Torino Olympics. Moore said

the paper purchased the same Associated Press package being used by USA Today and the New York Times. The Olympic section included several stories on athletes with a local connection. Another informative section was titled “Visit-ing Lake Placid – A Weekly Guide to the Olympic Region.”

The Lake Placid News and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise both have websites featuring some local news and exten-sive real estate listings, which Moore called “a big draw.” While Moore has embraced the internet, when she was asked if it is a threat to the printed page, she responded, “I’ve been hearing about all-electronic as long as I’ve been in business. People will always cut it out and put it on the refrigerator.”

Tupper Lake Free Press

M. Dan McClelland is the owner and publisher of the Tupper Lake Free Press. He has been associated with the paper since 1977. McClelland says the 3,600 circulation subscription weekly goes to almost every one of Tupper Lake’s 2,600 homes. Almost 1,000 of the subscribers live outside the region. The Free Press has a five person full-time staff and two contributing writers. A contract printer does the weekly printing.

McClelland says community promotion is his paper’s strength, remarking, “It’s read in every home. Anyone who ad-vertises advertises here.” You won’t find any Associated Press stories in the Free Press; 100 percent of the paper’s con-tent is locally generated. McClelland writes the editorials, as well as many of the news stories. He says he strives to make his editorials constructive and the overall paper’s flavor upbeat. McClelland emphasized, “The paper’s ultimate goal is to champion and lead the community. We’ve always tried to be the good news people in Tupper Lake.”

Asked for his greatest challenge as owner and publisher, McClelland said, “A deteriorating economy. Our communi-ties are struggling. Every business that leaves is part of our financial base. I don’t have any room to grow. We’re selling to almost everyone.” McClelland, however, is not afraid to try something new. He is just about ready to put his paper on the internet. The web stories will be short and online subscriptions will be sold. McClelland said, “The online paper will be very advertising focused. You will get the ads whether you subscribe or not.”

Even though he ha in the community. He’s optimistic about the future of the printed page saying, “Papers are strong. People still like to grab hold of something. It’s great business. It’s a strong business. You can do a lot of good in the community.” McClelland actually works for the betterment of two communities. He also owns and publishes the Gouver-neur Tribune Press, a small town weekly published some 70 miles to the southwest of Tupper Lake.

The newspaper professionals interviewed for this story all have a special sense of mission and commitment to their businesses and their communities. It’s not difficult to see that they all appreciate that their business is an essential part of American society.

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  • [...] should note here that the Daily Enterprise has a circulation of 5,300; the New York Times claims one of 1.59 million daily.  I should also note that the Daily [...]