Ravellette guest on radio forum

Small town newspapers were the subject of a recent South Dakota Public Radio Forum call-in show.

Guests on the show were Don Ravellette, publisher of seven weekly newspapers in Western South Dakota; Kathy Nelson, who along with her husband Jim publishes The Timber Lake Topic; and Jon Hunter, publisher of The Madison Daily Leader.

The publishers discussed topics ranging from technology to social news to the First Amendment.

Ravellette, whose newspaper group includes weekly publications in Philip, Wall, Kadoka, Faith, Bison, Murdo, and New Underwood, was asked if news staff is centralized in one office. “We let staff in each town find their own news,” Ravellette replied. “Each newspaper has their own personality.”

All three of the newspaper veterans agreed that technological advances have changed the publishing business. Asked if his newspapers share information via email, Ravellette said “We do that a lot. We have each office set up with internet access.”

Hunt discussed how input from readers drives what gets covered in small-town newspapers. “We sure appreciate them,” Hunt said. “Frankly, our readers are a great source for us.”

One controversial topic that all three publishers agreed on was the need to cover court news. Nelson said when people complain about their name getting in the paper, her response is: “We’re sorry, but when we decided to publish the court news, we publish all of it. We’re not selective.”

Hunt, Nelson, and Ravellette also discussed how their handle mistakes in their publications. Nelson said she likes to call the person affected by the mistake before they call her to say there was a mistake, and she is correcting it.

“We try not to let it happen again,” said Ravellette. “Once it’s in print, it makes a huge impression.”

Hunt also addressed the question of news getting too personal in a small-town publication. “Experience helps, as well as a knowledge of the laws.”

To listen to the program, which aired June 30, 2004, go to http://www.sdpb.org and click on the “radio” link, then “SD Forum”.