A week or so ago, I wrote that a smaller metro paper would soon cut two print days a week. That shoe has dropped: the Stillwater Gazette will go from a weekday paper to Wednesday-Thursday-Friday beginning Dec. 2.
Yes, the world will still spin on its axis. The Gazette is a small subscription paper, about 3,000 circulation, and in a way it’s mind-blowing something that small was published that often. The Gazette is owned by Texas-based American Community Newspapers, a struggling chain that emerged from bankruptcy in June.
Just six months ago, Stillwater denizens had two papers; the weekday Gazette and the weekly Stillwater Courier, which was shuttered in early May by North Dakota-based Forum Communications. [Update: Add in the St. Croix Valley Press, which does not have a Stillwater nameplate but covers that town and five others nearby. Apologies, SCVP folks.]
Gazette publisher Mark Berriman says there will be no staff changes, but one of the most interesting aspects of the story is his vow to “publish all reader-submitted materials” in print or online.”
According to the story, “Everyone in the Stillwater area is invited to submit news — from youth sports teams, Girl Scouts, to community organizations, and everything in between.”
Such content is, of course, free (save for processing and publishing it on the chosen platform), and such “community hubs” are becoming more popular for publishers. Nearly everyone, from the Strib on down, is finding ways to incorporate more user-generated content in a socially networked age.
The question: Will readers follow and find value in the “publish all” option? Business-wise, can community papers monetize their portals in a way that somehow preserves professional newsgathering, or is this just a way station to full-on amateurism … or oblivion?