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An Iowa couple bought back their small town's newspaper from media giant Gannett


It's been a week for Amy Duncan of Indianola, Iowa - population 16,000.

AMY DUNCAN: Crazy, hectic. We're trying to figure out a lot of things.

RASCOE: A few months back, she and her husband, Mark Davitt, bought the local newspaper, the Record-Herald. On Tuesday, they distributed their very first issue.

DUNCAN: You know, you buy the paper, and then you actually have to run it. So you have to figure out printing and delivery and people want to subscribe - so kind of setting up processes and making them up on the fly.

RASCOE: For Duncan and Davitt, it's a homecoming of sorts to their hometown paper. Between the two of them, they worked for over 50 years at the Record-Herald. Eventually, he moved on, she was laid off, and they started their own local news website to cover Indianola.

DUNCAN: People who told us, I will never read digital news, would call back a couple months later and say, OK, I bought an iPad. Can you help me set it up? And we would make house calls and go in and - here's how you get it. Here - we'll set you up with a button you can push to get to it.

RASCOE: Gannett, the media juggernaut that owns hundreds of news outlets across the country, began selling some small papers to local owners in recent years, according to the Poynter Institute. When the couple heard the Record-Herald was up for sale, they jumped at the chance to publish the physical newspaper their neighbors have trusted for decades.

DUNCAN: We always say, you know, a town is where people live and they kind of share a ZIP code. But a community is a place where you talk about the same things, you think about some of the same things and, in a lot of ways, you want the same things. You want a place that you can live and that you're safe and that your kids are safe and you get services. So, you know, we want people to know what's happening in their town and be able to make decisions about what they like and what they don't like.

RASCOE: She says getting the paper back in local hands is one thing. Keeping it there will take the whole community.

DUNCAN: We might not be able to make it work, but we have to try. I mean, we have to let the residents of the county and the potential readers decide whether it survives.

RASCOE: And while Amy Duncan wouldn't tell us how much they paid for the Record-Herald, if you're feeling inspired to buy your local paper...

DUNCAN: It's not very expensive these days (laughter). Let's just say that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "SKIPPING ROCKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Ian (pronounced "yahn") Stewart is a producer and editor for Weekend Edition and Up First.