Today is the last edition of the Butte County Post.
First, a bit of local newspaper history.
Second, what happened that brought the closing?
Finally, what now?
Local newspaper history
Newspapering in Belle Fourche began in 1891 with a young writer-printer in the lobby of a small frame hotel that few today would recognize as any sort of living place.
Nobody knows the exact way he managed to craft a newspaper from loose bits of metal type, oil-based ink and poor-quality paper sheets, but his Belle Fourche Bee began a tradition of news supported by advertising for a community that was little more than high hopes for a county seat, an all-important railroad connection and service to a growing agricultural economy.
By 1900 the city grew to 451 in population.
The Belle Fourche Times operated from 1896 to 1901, and the Northwest Post – that gave the ongoing name for the Post until this week, began in 1901.
Through the years the Bee was taken over by the Post that grew into a small local daily newspaper. In 1992 basically, the Post was purchased by a Black Hills company and the Post and Bee became a twice-per-week newspaper. In 2010 the two and Newell’s Valley Irrigator were merged into the Butte County Post.
The Valley Irrigator opened in 1910 and published roughly a century.
There were other newspapers too. There’s documentation that Nisland had the Butte County News and Butte County Press. Minnesela had the Butte County Star for perhaps a year. Castle Rock, Fruitdale, Hoover, Orman Dam area and Vale all had newspapers.
Much change came through the years that few outside the business recognize every day newspaper operation. Technology played a huge role in much of that change, along with regulations, and so did what Rapid City Journal Publisher Eugene Jackson said brings the current transition to consolidate our strengths.
Through the years publishers had to keep up with technology. Paper quality improved, but so did the price tag. Ditto ink. Typesetting improved, but so did costs. Better photo quality was wonderful but, again, expensive. Costs of reporting, editing, ad creation, circulation and just keeping the doors open increased.
Handling those costs and various government regulations changed far more than what readers and advertisers could have imagined when I started as a cub reporter in late fall of 1965. Or last Wednesday.
A photo of the Post staff from around 1910 shows a wood or coal stove for heat, a few bare light bulbs and what seems to be a press. That business model changed many times over the following 100 years.
The Post that now is closed has been part of the Journal family and Lee Enterprises.
"It is never an easy decision to transition any business; this holds true for our Northern Hills papers today," Rapid City Journal Publisher Eugene Jackson said in an article in the Rapid City Journal last Thursday. "Our team wants to focus on maximizing our resources, and this was an opportunity to do that.
Through the years, newspapers fill the role of being a business that most readers considered something of a public utility like the postal service and city water. It still is a business.
That dual role is why business models had to change through the years. Usually readers saw improvements in their newspaper quality, but had no idea of what it cost.
In my half century career, it often seemed to newspaper folks they were taken for granted like a public utility instead of a business with business needs.
That is essentially what brought the current change no matter how dedicated the staff.
Last week’s news story tells much of the future, and suggests what brought the changes.
In Chris Huber’s Rapid City Journal announcement, he noted the Journal will begin a daily Northern Hills page as of Nov. 9.
Jackson said in the article, “We feel that delivering content to our readers in the Northern Hills on a daily basis will help us maintain a strong position in that area, also while producing exciting stories and targeted advertisements to help our current customers to continue to drive results for their businesses in those historic locations.”
"We know that these communities are important, so we are excited to roll out the new page titled 'Our Northern Hills' in the Rapid City Journal each day starting next week,” Jackson said.
Deb Holland, current editor for the Meade County Times and longtime Journal writer and editor, heads the new coverage.
The change also means that local folks must realize that the old Post “utility” has taken a turn to a different place. It’s a different and obviously necessary update to the business model for our community’s professional news and advertising coverage.
There will be changes in how to get our local news into the Journal, our region’s flagship daily newspaper, that will be revealed through the next weeks.
The Post is closed, but its tradition of caring for the community, its news and advertising needs, can still live as we all grow into a new way to “post” in the future.