The “whiteout” campaign was organized by the Minnesota Newspaper Association to coincide with Minnesota Newspaper Week Aug. 13-19, part of the MNA’s yearlong 150th anniversary celebration.
The awareness campaign spilled over into Wisconsin, where WNA staff found at least eight newspapers that ran front pages that were devoid of news coverage this week.
On the cover of the Osceola Sun, Amery Free Press and Burnett County Sentinel in Grantsburg, readers found a wide-open page that teased in bold letters, “No news…” and continued on Page 2 “… is not necessarily good news.”
The kicker: “A hollow shell without the news of your community.”
The Superior Telegram, Hudson Star-Observer, New Richmond News, River Falls Journal and Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth featured similar front pages, asking readers to “Imagine you have no newspaper…” and “Imagine a week without local news.”
Tom Stangl, publisher of the Osceola, Amery and Grantsburg newspapers, said the idea to run the blank front pages on this side of the border began with his company’s sister publications in Minnesota, which had committed to participate in the MNA campaign.
“We had talked about it and we, from an editorial standpoint, had agreed that it was a message that needed to resonate everywhere,” Stangl said. “… I think it’s good occasionally just to remind people that without participation from the community, without them sharing news, without them subscribing, without them advertising, what they perceive as a utility can easily cease to exist.”
In addition to the blank front pages, Stangl wrote a column about the importance of community newspapers and published a column by APG-ECM Media News Director Keith Anderson, which had been distributed by the MNA for Minnesota Newspaper Week.
“I wanted to address the whole ‘print is dead’ thing as well,” Stangl said. “That’s the granddaddy of all fake news stories is that print is dead. Twenty years ago, they told us that all papers would be gone in 10 years.”
The WNA is considering adopting a similar coordinated “whiteout” effort for Wisconsin newspapers in the future.