One the eve of the closure of several large newspapers in the Twin Cities area, the New York Mills Dispatch continues to publish a weekly newspaper just as it has every week since 2013. 

The NY Mills area has a rich history in the newspaper industry as a Finnish newspaper and New York Mills Herald once called the community home. The Herald was merged with a newspaper in a neighboring community a number of years ago and was replaced by a locally owned option known as the NY Mills Dispatch. The newspaper began in 2013 and continues to be locally owned by Chad and Dani Koenen, who own Henning Publications, LLC. 

“We live near Deer Creek so we knew of the need in the community and it was always on our radar, we just never had a chance to start a publication. Once we had a little nudge from a few people everything just kind of fell into place,” said Chad.

Even with increased competition from the likes of social media and large media conglomerates, locally owned newspapers can continue to operate if they receive enough support from the community. That includes everything from buying a subscription to the newspaper to advertising upcoming events or business happenings. Chad said once that support starts to dwindle it becomes extremely hard to keep the doors open on a newspaper, much like the case for other small town businesses. 

In addition to Chad and Dani Koenen, the NY Mills Dispatch staff includes secretary/reporter Tucker Henderson who has been at the Dispatch for almost three years and advertising representative Kristy Helmbrecht who joined the Dispatch staff earlier this year.

The NY Mills Dispatch publishes a weekly newspaper every Wednesday and has sister publications in Henning and Frazee. 

“We are a small staff, but we do our best to be in as many places as we can be at once to cover what is going on in our own backyard,” said Chad. “While the world continues to evolve into digital platforms, we still feel there is a need and desire for a print newspaper in small town communities. There is something to be said about holding a newspaper in your hands and being able to cut out pictures for scrapbooks each week. You don’t get to do that with Facebook or other social media websites.”

In addition to publishing a newspaper and operating a website, the Dispatch also offers colored copies, custom print design work, plat book sales and custom logo designs. The Dispatch has the ability to print and design just about everything a person can imagine, including event posters and signs. 

“We offer a little bit of everything for people and really try to be a one-stop shop for everyone in the community. We do print and design a number of posters and banners, as well as have a custom print shop for everything from envelopes to letterhead,” said Chad. 

One of the biggest challenges the Dispatch staff have had to deal with over the past year has been ensuring the prompt delivery of the newspaper each week. 

In the past year the Dispatch staff has spent countless hours a week working with local post offices to attempt to speed up the delivery of the locally owned newspaper. Since last fall, Chad and Dani have dropped the newspaper off at a number of post offices in the region as a way to attempt to speed up delivery locally. While there are still some holes in where it may take several days to a week to get delivered just a few miles on occasion, the staff members are committed to doing what they can to make sure everyone who subscribes to the Dispatch receives it in a timely manner.

“I don’t think a week goes by where I am not on the phone with representatives from the USPS for at least several hours a week,” said Chad. “It is extremely frustrating as our local post masters and delivery drivers are doing a tremendous job. Unfortunately, their hands are tied by bureaucracy within the USPS system that seems to be prioritizing packages. How else can you explain how a package from Amazon can get out of a mail processing plant on time, but an important letter or newspaper is hung up for days on occasion. We share our customers frustration and we will continue to be advocates for them as much as we are able.”

The NY Mills Dispatch office is open five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to  3 p.m. on Friday. 

The main office for the Dispatch is located at 17 E. Centennial 84 Dr. in downtown NY Mills (the former Hardware Hank building across the street from Lakeland Auto Repair and next to Vaughn Auto). 

A one-year subscription to the Dispatch is just $42 for Otter Tail County residents, which is about the cost of a tank of gas. The cost for a one year subscription is also a fraction of the cost of several local weekly newspapers in the area. However, every subscription is an important way to keep this locally-owned publication going for another year. 

In addition to the Dispatch, Henning Publications, LLC, also published the Citizen’s Advocate in Henning and the Frazee-Vergas Forum.