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Stillwater Courier, Lake Elmo Leader cease publication

The Stillwater Courier and Lake Elmo Leader newspapers have ceased publication. The respective papers' final issues are their May 7 editions.

In an announcement posted to the newspapers' websites Tuesday, Courier managing editor Yvonne Klinnert wrote the following:

"Like any good journalist, I won't bury the news - this is the last edition of the Stillwater Courier or Lake Elmo Leader that you will receive.

"Some community newspapers are succumbing to the same economic pressures that are rocking so many businesses, and the news business especially. We are one of them, and we are ceasing publication of this newspaper with this edition.

"Rivertown Newspapers purchased the Stillwater Courier four years ago, and launched the Lake Elmo Leader six years ago. Staff members at both papers have sought to serve their local communities with the highest caliber of community journalism, and I think we have succeeded, if I may say so myself. I am very proud of the work that our staff has done, in producing these publications through the years.

"We have covered the official bodies of local cities, school district and county. We have told the personal stories of hundreds of community members. We have shown the community the inside of its classrooms, businesses, nonprofits, institutions, celebrations and tragedies. Each week, our photos mirrored the community, reflecting events across the spectrum of life in the St. Croix Valley.

"And the community responded well to our newspapers. We were heartily embraced by community members who appreciated the news source and community service we provided. For four years, I have been the delighted recipient of compliments about our publications: "I love your paper," "I wait for your paper each week," "I appreciate the community building that your paper does."

"Alas, we did not reach enough of your friends and neighbors. As a newspaper, we have to be a 'mass media,' we have to have a solid base of subscribers. While we have a very devoted, core group of subscribers, we never reached the numbers of people that we needed to remain financially healthy.

"At the same time, we couldn't garner the financial support from merchants to make our newspapers a profitable entity.

"When the economic tsunami sweeping the country hit our struggling enterprise, it simply wasn't possible to continue operating the business. The decision was made to cease publication.

"No newspaper publisher wishes to make such a decision. An informed electorate remains the basis of a democracy, and newspapers - and now their accompanying Web sites - remain a major source of that information for community members.

"But newspapers are businesses, not public utilities or nonprofits. They provide a public service, while remaining a private enterprise that must meet the expectations of the bottom line. The Stillwater area is a fragmented marketplace, with long-held loyalties. The 'new kids on the block' had a long row to hoe. Under current economic conditions, the task of being financially sound became too burdensome to continue to undertake.

"Personally, shutting down these newspapers is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my almost 30-year career. My staff and I undertook the task of starting and reviving an established publication, and turned it into a top-notch publication, one recognized two years running by the Minnesota Newspaper Association as the most-decorated publication among its membership.

"Ownership leaders gave us free rein to produce the best possible newspaper we knew how, a trust for which I will always be grateful. While I have never worked so hard in an employment position, I have also never been so richly rewarded with community response and appreciation. Those of you in the community who loved the Courier and Leader loved them almost as much as I did - and you let me know it. I will always hold that sentiment in my heart.

"Thank you for sharing your stories with us through the years. Thank you especially to those of you who did provide both financial and moral support through the years.

"The Stillwater and Lake Elmo area has a richness of tradition, community life and vitality that will serve it well into the future. I regret that our publications will not be part of that; thank you for the years that we were."

The Woodbury Bulletin is a member of the Rivertown Newspaper Group, which also includes the South Washington County Bulletin, the Hastings Star-Gazette, The Hudson Star-Observer and several other western Wisconsin newspapers.