FARGO - Local arts and entertainment newspaper High Plains Reader is relaunching its print edition on Thursday, Oct. 8.
“We’re in the process of putting our first edition of High Plains Reader together since March,” Editor Sabrina Hornung announced on Facebook on Monday. “It feels good to get back to business!”
The weekly paper’s last print issue before its nearly 7-month hiatus was March 19, as advertising dollars from bars, restaurants and entertainment venues dried up thanks to business closings initially mandated to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
HPR continued to publish online, but the print issue was absent from local grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses.
For now, HPR, which has its offices at 124 8th St. N., will publish every other week in a “cautious re-launch.”
“We’re going to put a paper out this week. We’re going to try every other week to see how it goes as long as we can go,” said John Strand, who co-owns the paper with Raul Gomez.
Distribution will be limited to high-volume outlets, such as Hornbacher’s grocery stores, Strand said.
“We're pulling our horns in a bit,” Strand said. “We’ll just gauge it week by week and see where it goes.”
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The advertising base is different from the arts, culture, entertainment, food, bar and events that dominated before, he said.
It will also be a different product.
“We won’t have the same calendar of events, because there aren’t events,” Strand said. Instead, there will be more of a focus on news and feature articles.
“Of course, we’re anxious, but we’re going to give it our best,” Strand said. “It’s just a cautious re-launch.”
Hornung said the shutdown was a shock. Then she had to watch the months slip by.
“It was one of those things, where it’s like, ‘Oh, great, now what are we going to do? You’d never think that the story of the century would shut down your paper,” Hornung said.
She is thankful for HPR’s team of volunteers that continue to pitch story ideas and write.
“We thrive off of volunteers. We wouldn’t be able to do anything without our volunteers. We’d be kind of lost without them,” she said. “It’s just so cool to see how passionate they are.”
The Reader will remain 18 to 24 pages, depending on ad revenues.
With most live calendar events still on hold, the paper may have to focus on livestreams and other online offerings, she said.
In the hiatus, Hornung kept herself busy with a number of projects, treating the time off like an art residency.
She also had a run-in with COVID-19, which she said affected her about six weeks.
“I’m feeling much better,” Hornung said, adding that she no longer suffers from the fatigue that was one of lingering effects of her illness.
“It was hard to have any gumption after that,” Hornung said. “Worst Democratic hoax ever!”
For now, Hornung’s happy to be back on deadline.
“Getting stuff put together, right now,” she said Monday afternoon. “It feels good, now that I have some structure.