Debbie Hemmer, publisher of the Grant County Review at Milbank, was elected president of the South Dakota Newspaper Association during the group’s 136th annual meeting May 5 in Sioux Falls.
“From the rising costs of production and postage, to social media and cries of fake news, to the battles over publishing public notices, some days it feels like the newspaper industry is under attack from every angle. It may be hard to be optimistic, but it is in times like these that the value of a hometown newspaper shines through,” Hemmer said. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, ‘The reports of the death of newspapers is greatly exaggerated.’ It is the hometown newspaper that puts the spotlight on what truly matters – the community.”
Hemmer added: “A community cannot thrive without a newspaper, and SDNA is here to help newspapers thrive. I’m honored to serve as president of the association, and will look to the good work of the past presidents who have so aptly served for examples to follow as we continue forward in these challenging times.”
Hemmer started her career in the newspaper industry as a typesetter at the Grant County Review in 1980, working for owners Phyllis and Clarence Justice. As is typical at weekly newspapers, she learned other aspects of the business as well.
“Phyllis taught me how to develop film and print photos in the darkroom, and Clarence instructed me on laying out the paper on grid sheets, both processes that we no longer use today,” Hemmer said.
Over time Hemmer took on more responsibilities at the Review, becoming a sports reporter, office manager and news reporter. She became editor after Phyllis Justice entered the nursing home.
In October 2013, Hemmer and fellow employee Holli Seehafer purchased the Review at the urging of Clarence Justice, who had become ill and moved to a nursing home.
Hemmer is the third publisher from Milbank to serve as SDNA president. Phyllis Justice was SDNA president in 1982-83. Henry S. Volkmar of the Milbank Review was president in 1899-1900.
Also elected to the SDNA Board of Directors last week were: first vice president Letitia Lister, publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer at Spearfish; second vice president Beau Ravellette of the Pioneer Review at Philip; third vice president Robert Slocum of the Timber Lake Topic; director Cory Myers, news director at the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls; director LeeAnne Dufek, publisher of the Hamlin County Republican at Castlewood; and immediate past president Kelli Bultena, publisher of the Lennox News.
South Dakota Newspaper Association, founded in 1882 and based in Brookings, represents the state’s 125 weekly and daily newspapers with a total readership of more than 600,000.