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Superior newspaper to drop to two days a week

After publishing six days a week since 1890, the Superior Daily Telegram plans in late September to publish print editions two days a week, focusing primarily on providing news online.

"The market can't support a six-day newspaper, and that's the reality," Telegram Publisher Ken Browall said Thursday. The 5,500-circulation newspaper now publishes daily, except on Sundays.

"We feel the best option for this newspaper is two days a week," he said. Which days those two will be remains uncertain.

The need to do something was obvious, said Steve McLister, publisher of the Duluth News Tribune.

"We can't continue to put out the same product and take in less and less and less," McLister told employees during a company meeting Thursday afternoon. McLister, who oversees all Forum Communications Co. newspapers in the Twin Ports region, including the Telegram, said the notion of eliminating the paper completely was discussed as well.

Previous owners also have discussed cutbacks, Browall said.

Whether the change will mean a reduction in the number of employees, remains undecided, Browall said. The paper employs 39 people.

"As the editor, I hope to keep everything the way it is now," said Ron Brochu, executive editor of the Telegram.

Browall declined to say how much money might be saved by the move to a twice-weekly publication. He said the paper probably will lose the word "Daily."

Brochu said breaking news will be posted immediately on the paper's Web site seven days a week, instead of when the afternoon paper hits the streets, as is the case now. The twice-weekly paper will include more enterprise stories, instead of primarily breaking news, he said.

Many Superior officials say they aren't accustomed to getting their news online.

"I'm real disappointed that the paper has decided to go to two days a week," Superior Mayor Dave Ross said`.

The fewer days newspapers are printed, the rarer the opportunities are for the community to exchange ideas, even if technically people can get some of that information online, Ross said.

The news saddened David Minor, president and CEO of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, but didn't surprise him. For several years, Superior officials have worried about the future of their local paper.

"It's going to take awhile for everyone to really realize what it's going to mean," Minor said.

The Telegram has been sold twice since 2004. Previoulsy, it had been locally owned by the Murphy family since 1890, when John T. Murphy bought it. In 1996, the Murphy family joined other investors in the paper, forming Murphy McGinnis Media.

Mike Simonson, a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio who writes a regular column about the media, has been reading the paper since the 1970s.

"I'm shocked, absolutely shocked," he said. "Superior is getting the short end of the stick. Douglas County is getting the short end of the stick."

The Duluth News Tribune, which like the Telegram is part of Fargo-based Forum Communications, intends to fill the daily newspaper void in Superior said Rob Karwath, the News Tribune's executive editor.

"We want this to be a newspaper for this entire region," Karwath said. As part of this transformation, Karwath said the newspaper probably will beef up the amount of Superior news the paper includes.

Every year, a smattering of small dailies become weeklies, said John Morton, a Maryland-based newspaper industry analyst.

Normally, you don't hear about them because the papers are so small, he said, referring to publications of a few thousand readers. "The newspaper industry is in a recession right now, whether or not the country is," Morton said.

The Telegram is the second Wisconsin newspaper this year to become primarily Web-based. The 90-year-old Capital Times newspaper in Madison, which also published Mondays through Saturdays, switched to a twice-weekly print product in April.

Superior's mayor acknowledges that newspapers must react to the economic pressures.

"It's a new time, and a new day, but I feel the decision not to have a daily paper in the city of Superior relegates us to a bedroom community," Ross said.

PATRICK GARMOE can be reached at (218) 723-5229 or