For the first time in 137 years, the Brainerd Dispatch made a significant change in how it puts out the news, sports and advertising before readers.

“This change ends a long tradition for the Brainerd lakes area,” said Publisher Pete Mohs in July. “It’s another example of how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our daily lives.”

Since becoming a daily newspaper in 1883, the Dispatch never missed a printed edition, no matter the challenge be it all kinds of weather, technical or mechanical issue, or power outages — like the tornado-caused citywide blackout on June 13, 2001.

The Dispatch July 16 edition marked the end of the daily printing schedule as the paper moved to a print format for Wednesdays and Sundays and an e-edition for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The e-edition is basically the printed paper, complete with pages that turn with a sound that mimics paper movement, all in a digital format.

Rod Swanson checks over the paper as a section is printed Friday, June 12, at the Brainerd Dispatch. The newspaper announced it will reduce its printed editions to two days a week, while continuing to produce e-editions six days a week. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Rod Swanson checks over the paper as a section is printed Friday, June 12, at the Brainerd Dispatch. The newspaper announced it will reduce its printed editions to two days a week, while continuing to produce e-editions six days a week. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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Forum Communications, the parent company for the Dispatch and Echo Journal weekly newspaper, also announced a reduction in publication days for other newspapers in the company — including Fargo, North Dakota, Duluth, Rochester and Willmar. Reducing print publishing dates is an industry trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move away from a printed daily paper was long forecast. But with loyal customers of a physical paper that arrived on doorsteps, it was a change that wasn’t expected to happen for years into the future.

RELATED: Dispatch to reduce publishing days

The printed publication model needed two elements to work — advertisers and readers. Then the coronavirus pandemic challenged all businesses and in a domino effect, changed the paper’s advertising revenue stream as businesses closed temporarily, reduced hours or had to reduce occupancy. Faced with that changed economic reality, the printing days were reduced in an effort to continue to sustain local journalism — especially at a time when people relied on local news more than ever.

It wasn’t an easy change for customers or Dispatch staff members, but it was a necessary one to sustain local news and to continue the work employees are dedicated to do — cover the communities of the lakes region.

A section of the Brainerd paper is printed Friday, June 12, at the Brainerd Dispatch. The newspaper announced it will reduce its printed editions to two days a week, while continuing to produce e-editions six days a week. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
A section of the Brainerd paper is printed Friday, June 12, at the Brainerd Dispatch. The newspaper announced it will reduce its printed editions to two days a week, while continuing to produce e-editions six days a week. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“We’ve heard feedback about the change from our readers, especially the longtime print subscribers,” Mohs said. “And our staff has helped many of those callers make the transition to our e-editions. We are working hard to make the remaining print edition days (Wednesday and Sunday) include extra news coverage, advertising and crossword puzzles.”

While the format changed, the news gathering did not with stories and photos going into an electronic edition that included added state and world news pages, and bonus material with additional lifestyle and entertainment coverage as well. The e-edition allows access from a tablet, phone or desktop computer early in the day. Readers can zoom in to enlarge the text or clip stories to save them.

RELATED: A brave new (digital) world for the Dispatch: How to view and use the features of our E-Paper

The e-edition readership grew steadily with the change. The Dispatch continues to be available online on its website, Brainerd Dispatch app, and through social media. The app is available to download for free from Google Play or the Apple App store. The easy to use app allows readers to save articles, share articles, adjust the size of the text and receive push notifications on breaking news.

Anyone needing more information or help setting up an account can call 218-855-5897.\u0009

“While reducing the days we print a paper will certainly be a change for us and our readers, what won't change is the excellent work our newsroom is doing,” said Editor Matt Erickson. “We will still be covering everything that's important to our readers on a daily basis, from news and sports to entertainment and religion.”