It has been two months since Forum Communications purchased the Brainerd Dispatch and Echo Journal. I thought this would be a good time to give you an update. Starting with Sunday’s (March 2) paper our readers will notice some changes.
Forum Communications is not afraid to invest in its properties, people and communities. Most of the changes that have transpired so far have been internal. To name a few, we have 30 new computers, upgrades to another 20-plus existing computers, new servers and completely new software systems throughout the plant. Much of this has required a large amount of hands-on training. We have had a steady stream of traffic traversing the tundra along Highway 210. Traveling between Fargo and Brainerd this winter has been not been for the faint of heart.
Going forward, the way we communicate and train will mean virtually no travel. We will have the ability to work face to face through computers at any particular time. We are connected to all of the newspapers in the Forum Communications network through gmail, Google docs, chat rooms and circles. We can actually sell advertising campaigns into any of the other 30-plus markets we are in. It also allows us to easily share stories of interest from other Minnesota locations. Many of you might be familiar with the efficiencies of some of these communication tools.
All of this preparation has led us to this day and subtle changes have been made in the newspaper and on our website. However, the design and layout of the newspaper will not change noticeably. In fact, Newseum recognized our front page design again on Friday, Feb. 28, as a “Top 10” winner. That’s 15 times in the last two years. We are very proud of that. We are even more proud of what our readers have overwhelmingly communicated to us. I can’t tell you how many emails and comments we’ve received from readers saying how much they love the look of their paper.
Here are some of the changes readers will notice. Concerning advertising, the classified ad section will be modified. The Forum papers collectively sell regional classified networks for automobiles, recruitment, apartments and real estate. Besides layout changes, you will notice name changes for those products. In print and online, UpNorth Autos will now be CarsHQ. Recruitment will now be called JobsHQ. Real estate will be known as HomesHQ and those looking for an apartment will look for ApartmentsHQ.
Less subtle changes will occur on the news side. Forum News Service is building a network of their own 37 newspapers, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Reuters. We will no longer be receiving national stories from the Associated Press. Reuters News Service will now provide us with those types of stories. Capitol news will be received via Forum correspondent Don Davis as well as the Pioneer Press. Regional news will be provided via the Forum News Service. An example of this efficiency and expandable coverage will be demonstrated with local sports. Many of the schools where our student athletes compete are located in cities covered by a Forum newspaper — Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Alexandria, Willmar, Duluth, Perham, Park Rapids and Wadena — to name a few. The exchange of stats, stories and photos will be done more quickly, easier and safer than traveling long distances, especially during the winter.
Readers will notice some changes online as well. The Dispatch will no longer have the “Spotted” feature for viewing and purchasing photos. We will be replacing “Spotted” as soon as we can find an equivalent service. The ability to comment on stories will cease. As of now we are not planning to offer an alternative to that. Instead, we invite readers to write to us with their comments for possible publication in the Dispatch.
Once again, many of the changes we have made the last two months have been internal. We do not expect any drop off in the quality of our services. Having said that, we are humans and software is software. If you have issues with billing, not getting your paper, or there is glitch on our website, please call or email us. The management team’s contact information has always been available in print and online. Be assured that the person you are talking to is dedicated to your satisfaction.
Thanks to our readers for supporting us. We have always aspired to be the best newspaper organization we can be.