Nonprofit to provide ‘truth-telling through research’ in North Dakota

Photos of the nine members of the North Dakota News Cooperative board Steve Andrist, Jill Denning Gackle, Hal Gershman, Mary Jo Hotzler, Cecile Wehrman, Tom Gerhardt, Mike Jacobs, Cynthia Lindquist and Eric Hardmeyer.
The North Dakota News Cooperative board members.
Contributed / North Dakota Newspaper Association

BISMARCK — An emerging nonprofit organization, North Dakota News Cooperative, is aiming to enhance the content in the state's newspapers through a statewide reporting service.

The nonprofit has incorporated and started to advertise for a managing editor in hopes of providing new journalism to citizens across the state by early 2022.

Several years ago, the North Dakota Newspaper Association created a Future of Newspapers Committee to conduct projects intended to sustain newspapers into the future, according to co-chair Steve Andrist, former newspaper publisher. Those projects included readership campaigns, advertising promotion and more. Two years ago, the committee turned its attention to something more dramatic, the ND News Cooperative.

“The main function of the organization is to provide original content of statewide significance for use — at no cost — by newspapers and other media outlets in the state,” Andrist said.

The managing editor will report and manage the reporting program for the organization, which hopes to employ at least one additional full-time journalist.


Garrison Publisher and NDNC Co-Chair Jill Denning Gackle noted local coverage of schools, cities and counties is the bread and butter of every newspaper. “But we think the state's newspapers will be enhanced by in-depth, deep dive stories that look at issues our existing staffs don't have the bandwidth to cover.”

NDNC Board Member and Crosby Publisher Cecile Wehrman agreed that community newspapers don’t always have the resources or manpower to spend weeks digging into complex issues. “And chances are, if it’s impacting my community, it’s a story that impacts one down the road 60 miles in every direction.”

Once a managing editor is in place, the organization will look closely at how to educate the public – young and old – about news literacy, Andrist said.

“Journalism is reporting that has been vetted, multi-sourced, contextualized and includes various perspectives,” he said. “In the information age, much information is shared on social media and other digital platforms without regard for where it came from, whether it’s true, or whether it has been produced to advance a particular perspective or point of view. News literacy means understanding the difference.”

ND News Cooperative will be working with North Dakota educators to provide programming to teach news literacy and programs for service and community organizations.

The organization is the passion of a board of directors from various backgrounds: businessmen, educators, bankers, journalists and former journalists. Board members in addition to those quoted above include Tom Gerhardt, a former broadcast journalist who works for North Dakota United; Hal Gershman, a Grand Forks businessman; Eric Hardmeyer, retired president of the Bank of North Dakota; Cynthia Lindquist, president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College at Fort Totten; Mary Jo Hotzler, chief content officer at Forum Communications in Fargo; and Mike Jacobs, former publisher of the Grand Forks Herald.

The board is responsible for fundraising. Start-up funds came from the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education, trusts and foundations. Donations are accepted through NDNA. Their website is .

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