'People trust us': Manitoba's youngest newspaper publisher confident print isn't dead

While many people his age turn to the internet and social media to find their news Micah Waddell is moving in a decidedly different direction, the 21-year-old bought a newspaper.

Micah Waddell took over the Rivers Banner earlier this month

Micah Waddell, 21, took over as publisher and editor of the Rivers Banner newspaper this month. He is the province's youngest newspaper publisher. (Submitted/Ken Waddell)

While many people his age turn to the internet and social media to find their news, Micah Waddell is moving in a decidedly different direction.

The 21-year-old just bought a newspaper.

"I saw it as an opportunity to serve a community," said Waddell of his decision to take over operations of the Rivers Banner, a career move he admits isn't exactly one he'd planned for.

"My experience and training is actually in the welding industry and blacksmithing, so it was a big change."

The opportunity came when former owner — Waddell's grandfather Ken Waddell — started looking for a buyer for the Banner, which has served the Rivers, Rapid City and Oak River region of Manitoba for more than a century.

As luck would have it the younger Waddell was between welding gigs and had been filling in at his grandfather's sister publication, the Neepawa Banner, when the chance to buy the Rivers paper came up.

He jumped at the opportunity, and is now the province's youngest newspaper publisher.

A job with many hats

He took over the weekly publication earlier this month, and as well as being the paper's owner and publisher, he's also the paper's editor and its only full time employee.

It's understandably been a busy transition for Waddell, who says he learned the ins and outs of the family business including how to write, report and sell ads by watching his grandfather work over the years.

But it's a role he's still getting used to. 

"The time crunch is a huge thing," he said of the challenges he faces.

"We put out a paper every week and — as my only full time employee — I've got to have the paper built, all the stories in it, and all of the ads in it as well.

"It takes quite a bit of time and I'm only running six days to get a paper together."

He has one part-time employee who watches the office and helps to sell ads, but other than that everything else is done by the young publisher.

And even as lost ad revenues and declining subscription numbers are forcing newspapers in larger markets across the country to close up shop, Waddell says the medium is thriving in rural markets.

"We are a traditional media, people trust us," he said. "It's how it's always been and I don't think that's going to change.

"Yes, people have been closing down newspapers, but I believe community newspapers are still going strong."

Going forward Waddell says he's focused on making sure the paper remains local and hopes to expand the Banner to provide a larger paper to his readers every week.

Waddell says it's important the Banner remains a part of the community.

"The communities that have lost their newspapers … they miss it — it's a great source of information — community calendars and just local stories and such," he said.

"You just don't hear about community events because very few communities have local internet news sources."