AP NEWS

New Post Bulletin owners have long history in the region

May 19, 2019

The new owner taking over the Post Bulletin is a family with a long history in newspapers and a large footprint in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

It was announced Thursday that Forum Communications is acquiring the Post Bulletin from Illinois-based Small Newspaper Group. The deal, which does not include the Post Bulletin complex, is expected to be finalized soon. The property is listed for sale separately and has interest from prospective buyers.

The Small family also sold Rochester Magazine, the Agri News agricultural weekly newspaper and SNG Research Corp. to Forum Communications. Financial details of the deal were not released.

Forum, owned by the Marcil family, is based in Fargo, N.D., with its flagship newspaper, the Fargo Forum.

The company’s origins date back to the purchase of the Fargo Forum newspaper in 1878. It has grown to include more than 30 newspapers, four TV stations and a radio stations in North Dakota and Wisconsin as well as its Associated Press-like regional new service.

Bill Marcil Jr., representing the family’s fifth generation, is president of Forum Communications. His great-great-grandfather launched the company.

Given locations of its other newspapers, including the nearby Red Wing Republican Eagle, Forum leaders said buying the Post Bulletin was “a slam dunk.”

“When we saw an opportunity like this in our backyard, we snapped it up right away,” said Marcil. “The paper is quality … beyond quality. I believe Rochester, as a community, will grow like crazy. … It was an easy decision.”

Despite recent financial headwinds in the industry, Forum Communications remains bullish on community newspapers.

“I honestly believe the difficult times in the newspaper industry are done. Now is a time where we need to do what we are good at — deliver quality content in this social media-frenzied world,” he said. “The industry in the last 10 years has laid off a lot of people and we’ve done our fair share. But now we’re in the process of rebuilding our newsrooms to better cover our communities.”

Bill Marcil Sr., chairman of the privately held FCC, said that while newspapers are businesses, his family sees them as essential for a healthy community.

“Reliable information is important to the country. … We see this as a public trust,” he said.

One unique aspect to the Marcils’ operation is the Forum News Service, which was created in 2012. Subscribing to the Associated Press news cooperative had grown more and more expensive, while the Forum’s team of newsgatherers spread throughout the region.

That inspired the Marcils to try their hand at a news service that collects reports from its newspapers and broadcast stations. The service then edits and redistributes that news for sale to other regional media outlets.

For Post Bulletin readers, that means reporting from the state Legislature in St. Paul will return to the Rochester paper. The Post Bulletin, which monitors the action at the Legislature, has not had a reporter based there for two years.

The Forum News Service has reporters based in St. Paul as well as the capitols of North Dakota and Wisconsin to cover issues for all of its publications.

While the Associated Press will no longer be in the Post Bulletin, Forum Communications does use reporting from the Washington Post, the New York Times and Reuters news services.

Another change for the Post Bulletin, which readers won’t see directly, is that the printing of the daily newspaper will move from Rochester to a Forum press in Red Wing. Details about that transition are still being worked out.

As news continues to evolve, Bill Marcil Jr. said the plan is to focus on publishing deeply reported articles about each community and the region with an eye toward the future. The long-term success of the business and the reputation of the company mean more than just the financial reports of the next quarter.

“Every day, I think about that next generation, the sixth generation (of the Marcil family), and what I am going to hand off to them in 16 years or so,” he said.

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