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WENZEL: Daily Republic sold?

The man on the phone was nice enough, and I appreciated his candor.

He called to tell me he heard The Daily Republic has been sold, and he evidently was concerned by such news.

He isn't the first to ask. Even the mother of one of our department heads heard The Daily Republic has a new owner and expressed concern. I've probably been asked five or six times in the past few months.

So here is the answer: No. The Daily Republic has not been sold, and I'm told it isn't being shopped around, either.

This is important to note because, as the caller said to me Friday, people want a locally controlled newspaper. Whereas The Daily Republic isn't owned locally, it generally is controlled locally.

Here are some other questions I'm routinely asked around town, with answers following:

Who owns The Daily Republic?

Since the mid-1990s, we've been owned by Forum Communications Co. It's a chain of mostly newspapers -- weekly and daily -- and also radio and TV stations that operate in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Don't let the Co. at the end of the company name fool you. This is a family-run operation and has been that way for generations.

William Marcil Sr. is the patriarch and is well-known nationally in media circles. His son, William Jr., is currently the publisher of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, the flagship newspaper for the company.

The owner has not brought in a host of North Dakotans to run the Mitchell paper. I'm from Wessington Springs, and so is one of our department heads. The other managers here are natives of Kimball, Alexandria, Sioux Falls and Rexburg, Idaho.

How far does the Forum Communications chain reach?

The Daily Republic is the only South Dakota property owned by Forum Communications. We are well-supported by the company, which this year sank a small fortune into a technological upgrade for its Mitchell site.

Who is Wenzel's boss?

My immediate supervisor is Steve McLister, vice president of newspapers for Forum Communications Co. He was publisher at The Daily Republic in the 1990s and now lives in Fargo, overseeing numerous sites.

McLister's boss is Lloyd Case, president and CEO of the company. Many times, I've heard these men discuss the importance of the company's newspapers to their communities, and I often wonder if other media companies feel the same way.

Does the parent company dictate news coverage?

No, it doesn't make many -- if any -- mandates about coverage, editorial views and the like.

In fact, after seven years of upper management here, I can honestly say I've only been told a couple of times what to do with the print version of this newspaper, and those instances really had nothing to do with everyday news coverage.

Yes, we do run some North Dakota-Minnesota news from our company wire, but that's a byproduct of today's media landscape. The Associated Press isn't what it used to be, and because of that, it's harder to fill our pages with news from the Dakotas.

At The Daily Republic, we have tried to combat the problem by giving our writers strict quotas for producing local stories. Last year, we produced more than 2,400 local stories, and that number only includes pieces with actual bylines.

Fargo writes our checks but doesn't tell us what to cover or how the newspaper should look. Speaking of which, we are planning a slight re-design, to be unveiled this spring. We weren't told to do it, nor will it signal a change in ownership.

Who writes the editorials?

Our editorials are locally written five times a week. Since our editorial board is small and actual writing is shared between only two employees -- the publisher and the editor -- we do sometimes have off days and publish an editorial produced by another newspaper from within our company.

There's nothing more to it than someone was on vacation, ill or out of the office that day. It's not part of some imaginary agenda that comes out of North Dakota.

Has The Daily Republic recently laid off employees?

Yes, three or four, depending on how they're counted. But those were related to technological upgrades and not due to financial woes. We still have some 45 full-time employees and dozens of part-timers on staff.

What about staff turnover?

Yes, we have had some turnover lately. Some moved on to different professional fields or to other newspapers. We set high goals for a small newspaper, and those who achieve these goals naturally will be coveted by other employers. Those who don't, generally move on. It happens.

So, yes, I've heard all the rumors. Today, I write about them because if I heard these kinds of things about other local businesses, we would investigate.

I rather like hearing these rumors, since it shows people care, like the fellow who called me Friday.