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The Last Windrow: Newspapers change with the times

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I always considered myself a “farm kid,” but my years on the farm included the service provided by the closest town to our farm, Hinton. Although we raised our own meat and vegetables, we depended on Hinton to provide us with feed, coal, hardware, gas and anything else we didn’t produce ourselves, including a newspaper.

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Hinton also had its own newspaper, the Hinton Progress. The paper was owned and operated by the Nurnberg family. It was a small paper, probably showing no more than 10 or 12 pages — I don’t remember accurately.

But, the paper came out every week on Tuesday or Wednesday and we looked forward to pulling it out of our RFD mailbox.

Some folks made fun of this paper. It didn’t have a lot of regional or national news. It was mostly devoted to the goings-on of the Hinton area. It had church news, farm market news, obituaries, birth announcements, wedding announcements and a bunch of local news provided by a variety of local writers.

If you wanted to know who visited who on Sunday night, who went on vacation to Lake Okoboji, who lost a hog, who had a barn fire, who bought a new car — you would simply turn to the columns in that paper and you would find out.

Some might have called it “gossip,” but we called it news.

I think most of us rural-raised folk remember a paper like this.

The paper also carried a number of stock advertisements that didn’t change very much from week to week. There were ads for the American Legion, the Co-op, the undertaker, the local bank, Stockburger’s Hardware Store, Spies Appliance Center, Alber’s Food Center, Hank’s Tavern and a number of seed corn dealers.

But, in those days prices didn’t change much, so not to worry about changing your ad every week.

Even though many sometimes made fun of this little paper, everyone read it. There was a certain magnetism to it. If for some reason the paper didn’t show up in the mailbox, a phone call was made inquiring why not.

Sadly, many of those small-town papers have disappeared with the changes in the rural landscape. With each demise comes a sense of loss to those living around and depending on those papers for the news of their area.

I write for several small papers and each one has experienced the challenge of how to keep a small paper in the mailboxes of those living in the area. We are experiencing such a change this week in one of the papers I have written this column for for more than 30 years, the Pine River Journal. This paper will be combined with our neighboring community’s paper, the Lake Country Echo, this week.

Change has come again.

Although there will be some remorse in not having a paper located physically inside our town, we will now have a paper that will be included in a larger community. The paper will now include news from up to seven communities. We will be learning more about our entire area with this change.

No small town is an island anymore; we have joined the new tech age, whether we like it or not.

I’m excited to see this change, even though I, too, feel a loss at having the previous local paper no longer setting on the store shelves. The publishers have promised to give fair exposure to all the communities affected. Heck, they’re even including this column in the bigger editions! I don’t feel too bad about that!

Times change and newspapers change with them. It is necessary and hopefully a change for the better. I choose to look forward to it!

See you next time. Okay?

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