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Newspapers close, staff cut as coronavirus hits the Minnesota media

Two Twin Cities titles are shutting down, while there are cuts at other media outlets.

The coronavirus pandemic is having a severe impact on media outlets across the country as advertising income dwindles, and Minnesota is no exception.

As companies struggle to stay afloat amid the ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns, one of the first budgets cut is typically in marketing, having a significant knock-on effect for the newspapers, websites, radio stations and TV news outlets for whom they're vital.

In Minnesota, the sudden onset of the coronavirus has proven too much for some to survive, with the Hastings Star Gazette and The Bulletin of Woodbury and Cottage Grove announcing on Monday they will shut down.

The Star Gazette's last edition will be Tuesday, Apr. 7, with The Bulletin following next month with a final edition on May 6.

Its parent company, RiverTown Multimedia – a division of the Forum Communication Co., said the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded an existing decline in print advertising, prompting the decision.

“The disruption to the advertising revenue of the Hastings Star Gazette and The Bulletin has resulted in these two publications no longer remaining financially viable," publisher Neal Ronquist said.

"Advertising revenue accounts for approximately 70 percent of the revenue our paid newspapers generate."

Another Forum title, the Fargo Forum newspaper, announced last week that it would be cutting its Monday and Friday editions as part of cost-reduction efforts amid the ongoing crisis.

The cuts and closures are coming at a time when it's arguably never been more vital for news consumers be informed of the latest developments regarding the state's response to the pandemic.

In St. Paul, the Pioneer Press' already depleted newsroom could be further impacted, with reporter Nick Woltman tweeting that the newspaper is offering "yet another round of buyouts."

The newspaper's editorial team has been slashed significantly since it was bought by hedge fund Alden Global Capital in 2012, though this time the cuts are being attributed to COVID-19.

It's not just newspapers that are immune either. On Monday it was reported that Tegna Inc., which counts KARE 11 among its TV stations, is implementing a series of furloughs.

Meanwhile Esme Murphy tweeted this week that she has been laid off from WCCO-AM radio due to COVID-19 cost-cutting, though she is continuing her role on WCCO-TV.

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