How did the Tribune rank after review?

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This past Friday, Tribune Publisher Crystal Miller and I traveled up to Minneapolis for our second session of the 2015 Editors and Publishers Community Leadership Program.

The program is organized by the Minnesota Newspaper Association and is modeled after the successful Blandin Community Leadership Program. It is geared toward rural newspapers such as the Tribune.

This session was of particular interest for me because we got back the results of a study of our newspaper completed by a research team at the Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Email newsletter signup

The team analyzed a random sample of newspapers from Jan. 1 through March 27. The sample included 39 newspapers — 13 from each month.

Within each newspaper, they looked at all articles 50 words or longer on the first five to seven pages.

They read through all of the articles, looked at whether the stories were of local, regional, state, national or international significance, along with whether the sources in the stories were local or non-local.

Then they coded the stories into eight categories based on the topics. The categories represent the dimensions of a healthy community.

The dimensions are the following:

• Lifelong learning

• Economic opportunity

• Infrastructure and services

• Environmental stewardship

• Community leadership

• Safety and security

• Spiritual, recreational and cultural opportunities

• Inclusion

The purpose was to look at our own coverage and discover whether we are covering all eight of these dimensions of a healthy community and where we can improve.


How did the Tribune do?

According to the Center for Small Towns, the largest number of stories in the Tribune fell into the category of local news, while the smallest number fell into the category of international news. Regional and state news articles were second and third in terms of frequency of articles.

Out of all of the articles, the largest two dimensions were related to infrastructure and services with 36.5 percent, and safety and security with 27.2 percent. The spiritual, recreational and cultural dimension was third with 18.5 percent.

The smallest dimensions were inclusion, lifelong learning and environmental stewardship.

I was not too surprised to see which categories were the highest and which were the lowest. The Tribune strives to thoroughly cover law enforcement and court-related news for the safety and security of our readers, and we try to be  consistent at covering most local government meetings.

Of the six other newspapers participating in the study this year, the results were similar.

Infrastructure and services was the top category, with the spiritual, recreational and cultural category in second and safety and security in third.

The lowest categories were the same as the Tribune’s lowest three.

Across the board, some of the popular themes documented among all the newspapers were access to health insurance, community leadership and city and county government, Internet accessibility and broadband, road repair and funding, state politics and economic development.

It was interesting for me to see that even though we lived in different parts of the state, many of the same issues were important in these rural communities.

So, where do we go with this information now that we have received it?

First off, I would like to focus on developing coverage in some of our weaker areas.

Crystal and I will also be developing a larger project that will help the newspaper encourage a healthier community. We are still determining what our project will focus on, but you can be sure that I will give more information about this in future columns.

As always, if you have any input, please feel free to give me a call 379-3433 or email


Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears each Tuesday.