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Our News Is Free To Read, But Not Free To Gather

It’s a new year, and excitement and optimism abound. 

(Well, for most of us, anyway. I’m sure there’s some curmudgeons out there with keen eyes for pessimistic triggers. But we choose to stay inspired and optimistic.)

As with past new years, this year we start fresh, wide-eyed and determined to let our new personal and professional goals fuel us into the 2020s. 

At home, we’re dusting off the treadmill and picking out the dumb bells from the pile of kids’ toys. We’re filling the fridge with carrots and celery and throwing out the Cheetos. We’re lining the bathroom mirror with inspirational Post-its. And we’re pledging to spend less time glued to our screens and more time with the people sitting across from us.

At work, we’re gritting our teeth in defiance of past bad habits and declaring that 2020 will be the year we’ll form new — better — habits, ones that will enable us to work harder and smarter. It’ll be the beginning of a decade during which we’ll never again be frazzled by our annoying or toxic co-workers. It’ll be the year we upgrade to a more positive perspective. And 2020 will be the year our ascension to professional stardom really takes off. 

In May, The Havre Herald hits its 2-year anniversary. It’s been a fun, educational, and at times, frustrating, ride. That’s to be expected.

Our readership continues to grow. Thousands of people a week read The Herald, depending on us for news that matters. Hundreds subscribe to receive Herald news in their inbox. Our stories are read by people all over the state, far beyond the Havre area. We’ve been the first to report important stories, such as news about who the new owners of the Holiday Village Mall are; the controversy stirred up between Hutterite colonies and outside local communities; the severance package Hill County paid to a former county attorney so she’d leave; how the fallout from a lawsuit against Border Patrol were prompting the plaintiffs to leave Havre; to name just a few.

We’ve published a good deal of other stories meant to help citizens better understand their community. For a short version of that list, scroll to the end of this post.

But we’re not content camping out in the field of small past victories. We’re looking ahead.

This year, we’re tweaking some things, and we’ve got plans to try new things as well. 

One change we’ve made was eliminating the police blotter. That time can be better utilized on more crucial reporting. Every minute and resource counts.

When we launched, the goal was simple: Focus on important stories that weren’t being reported and stories that deserve in-depth analysis. And, as we briefly mentioned, we’ve done that.

But not enough. There’s still much unreported critical news about the north-central region. And without resources, they will remain that way. That’s reality. Our news is free to read, but not free to gather. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything that’s really free.

Our goal is to build an efficient and fiscally sustainable model that helps us to deliver more critical and in-depth news. If we can’t do those things, we go home.

But we’re not an island.

We’re dependent on you.  

We’ve been fortunate to land some wonderful advertising partners and a handful of monthly contributors– you know who you are, thank you!– from the beginning, making it possible to publish news without losing a cent. But we’re reaching the two-year mark and it’s time to go beyond not losing money.

We’re in the process of implementing a multi-tier membership model. The goal is to have an option for everyone, for those who can afford to contribute and those who can’t. We’ll also have a very cost-effective option for businesses and organizations. More on that as we iron out the details. 

In addition to our upcoming membership model, The Herald is tinkering with the idea of applying for nonprofit status. If we decide to go that route, it’ll be because the opportunities it’ll open up will outweigh the headaches it may present.  

Let’s talk openly here. Figuring out how not to lose money, much less make money, is fairly common in our business. It’s the reason Gannett, owner of the Great Falls Tribune, merged with GateHouse. It’s estimated that up to 4,000 people will be let go from the company. We have no idea what, if anything, that means for the Tribune.

The Gannett-GateHouse merger is just one of many examples of troubled waters in the sea of journalism. Ours is an industry that’s been decimated by cuts and closures of newspapers all over the country for years. Up until we published news about a recent study, I had no idea that most news consumers don’t even know that the news industry is a struggling one. Now you know.

While some organizations have refused to come to terms with the 21st century and are paying the price dearly, other outlets experiment with every model and idea under the sun to try and figure out that sweet spot of sustainability. 

We are in the latter category. 

And again, that comes back to you, the reader.

To start out the year, we’re introducing a pretty sweet incentive for supporting The Herald.

During the month of January, everyone who signs up for a $5-or-more monthly contribution to the Herald gets a coupon for a free cookie and beverage of their choice from Infinity Bake Shoppe. It’s really easy. Here’s the link to sign up.  You can also visit this link for more details on this appetizing opportunity.

Also, if you own a business and are interested in partnering with us, learn more about that here. We’d love to see if we can help each other out. You can also send an email to for more info on our upcoming business promo.

Lastly, here is a list of stories we’ve reported recently, the kind we plan to continue doing, most of which you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. This is why we’re here.

Don’t miss any news. Sign up for the free Herald newsletter to receive the latest news delivered straight into your inbox

Paul Dragu is the editor-in-chief of The Havre Herald. For more on the Herald team, read the About Us page. (406) 262-7778
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