A 40-year-old family newspaper in northeastern North Dakota is set to print its last edition next month.
Valley News & Views’ final paper will roll out June 2, time enough for Publisher/Editor Lesa Van Camp to cover one last high school graduation.
“These kids deserve it,” she said Tuesday. “That’s what these small community newspapers are about.”
Health issues and difficulties finding a buyer and a part-time employee led to her decision to close, she said. Volunteers have provided stories and photos, especially in the last year, she said.
“But that’s not sustainable long-term,” said Van Camp, who called herself “a one-person office.”
Drayton, which has about 750 residents in the northern Red River Valley, has had a newspaper since the early 1880s, under multiple names and owners.
Van Camp’s now-husband, Lyle, and his late mother, Roberta, after working for a previous Drayton newspaper founded the weekly Valley News & Views “from nothing” in 1982, Van Camp said. Lesa and Lyle married in 2001.
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The family sold the paper for financial reasons in 2007, but Lesa Van Camp in 2014 bought it back after the owner died suddenly.
Van Camp had a background in a variety of work positions such as a school cook, call center representative and florist, but she had little knowledge of newspapering. She “learned along the way and I developed a passion for local journalism, and for any town to lose its newspaper is sad, but this one is really difficult,” Van Camp said.
The paper covers mostly community events, including sports, she said. Flooding has been on the front page in recent weeks.
Valley News & Views has a circulation of 439, according to the North Dakota Newspaper Association.
Drayton Mayor Chip Olson called the coming closure “an unfortunate thing.” The newspaper “helps bind the community together,” he said.
“It’s nice to have a local newspaper that covers the high school sports and local news. You wouldn’t read anything in there about ‘President Biden does this’ or the war in Ukraine, but that’s not what it is about,” said Olson , who works as an agronomist.
Pembina County has two other newspapers, in Cavalier and Pembina. The nearby Grafton newspaper in Walsh County might pick up some Drayton coverage, Van Camp said.
Newspaper Association Executive Director Sarah Elmquist Squires said, “We never want to see a newspaper close. We know that that has real consequences for communities and families.”
The association is hopeful Van Camp finds a buyer, but “that can be a challenge in smaller towns,” Squires said.
Newspapers bring “real, measurable value” to communities, covering schools, sports, local governments, celebrations and challenges, she said.
A few North Dakota newspapers have closed in recent years, including the Walhalla Mountaineer in 2020 and the Dunn County Herald in 2019.
The Langdon-based Cavalier County Republican closed last year, but the Borderland Press newspaper formed to continue providing local coverage.
Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or email@example.com.