A storyteller’s story during the pandemic

Local News

FREEMAN, S.D. (KELO) — Just about any business or organization you can think of has been affected by COVID-19, even newsrooms.

The pandemic led to layoffs and more for some news organizations. A newspaper publisher in Hutchinson County considers himself fortunate that he didn’t have to do that, but that doesn’t mean 2020 wasn’t challenging.

It’s Jeremy Waltner’s passion to tell the stories happening in the Freeman and Menno communities.

“I’m spending my days taking pictures, interviewing people, and writing stories, laying out pages,” Freeman Courier president and publisher Jeremy Waltner said.

He’s the president and publisher of the Freeman Courier, a weekly newspaper. Waltner says the pandemic affected the paper in a number of ways, both good and bad.

“Obviously there was serious concern early on about what this would mean for advertising revenue with businesses temporarily shutting down, events in town getting canceled,” Waltner said.

The storyteller stayed strong.

He applied for and received a PPP loan and found ways to save money.

“A little bit here, a little bit there made a difference,” Waltner said.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic the Freeman Courier continued to publish a paper every week.

“I never got to a point where I seriously considered not producing a paper, but for the first time I let my mind go to a place that said maybe what I do looks different,” Waltner said.

Waltner says things have returned to normal, but there’s still some financial concern because it’s unclear when the pandemic will end.

But he is sure of why his newspaper matters.

“I’m promise you that that gentleman who grew a giant pumpkin in his garden and wants me to take a picture of it, that pumpkin is very important to him and it matters. It matters to the basketball team that wins a big game. It matters to the business owner who’s celebrating 50 years and it matters to the grandma whose grandson got in the paper. That stuff is every bit as important as stuff that happens in the big cities,” Waltner said.

And that’s why this storyteller does this work.

Waltnter says he also ramped up online reporting to cover breaking news during the pandemic.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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