A year after the Southwest Journal ceased publication, a free neighborhood newspaper arrived on southwest Minneapolis doorsteps last week. The Southwest Connector is one of two new media outlets — one print, one digital — targeting that section of the city.
A cover story explained its origins: "The Southwest Connector is for profit and for a purpose," wrote publisher Tesha M. Christensen, "and we don't sacrifice one for the other."
Christensen's company, TMC Publications, owns two other Twin Cities neighborhood newspapers: the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and the Midway Como Frogtown Monitor. Then a part-time reporter, Christensen bought those papers in 2019, when their owners were looking to retire.
She was saddened by the news last year that the Southwest Journal would fold.
"I have a soft spot for spaces that don't have a newspaper or might lose it," Christensen said by phone. While the newspaper has a website, "I firmly believe in the power of print," she said, "of actually having something you can hold in your hands."
The Southwest Connector will face competition from Southwest Voices, an online news service founded by Charlie Rybak and Andrew Haeg that went live this fall. The site's content is free and supported by members.
"We believe in local news that listens before it speaks," its website says, "and elevates the voices of people across the community."
A digital media strategist and son of former Minneapolis mayor (and journalist) R.T. Rybak, Charlie Rybak grew up in southwest Minneapolis and has seen it change.
"We're hoping to create a local news outlet that reflects southwest Minneapolis in the 2020s," he said. "We want to make people more informed and connected, and are hoping to use digital tools like email newsletters and text messaging to bring people into the city's decision-making process."
Southwest Voices recently hosted its first members meeting, Rybak said, and he expects to approach 100 members by year's end. Its e-mail list has several thousand members.
For three decades, the Southwest Journal was an influential voice in Minneapolis with its coverage of schools, civic groups and real estate developments in the city's most affluent neighborhoods.
At a time when dozens of neighborhood papers peppered the region, Southwest Journal grew to a circulation of 33,000. But it ceased publication in late 2020, its owners citing a steep drop in advertising.
So the new outlets came as a surprise to some residents.
"Somehow southwest Minneapolis now has two competing new little newspapers duking it out, which is a nice problem to have," tweeted Keith Pille, who lives in Kingfield.
He and his wife have really missed the Southwest Journal, he said via email, partly for its reporting on businesses opening or closing.
Pille hopes that one of the new publications finds a way to be viable, becoming "a force for covering hyperlocal stuff ... without turning into an engine for manufacturing consent on NIMBYism."
The Southwest Connector is publishing monthly, for now, with plans to go twice-monthly in February. The first issue went to 10,000 households, plus 5,000 copies dropped at shops and other locations, Christensen said. Over the next four to six months, she hopes to increase the number of home deliveries to 27,000.
Suzie Marty, founder and curator of Everett & Charlie gallery in Linden Hills, used to sell ads for the Southwest Journal. She's now doing sales for the Southwest Connector, in addition to writing a column for the paper.
"The first issue just hit the ground a few days ago, and I'm already getting flooded with emails," Marty said.
The neighborhood is "like a small town in a big city," she continued. While bigger media outlets cover general trends, they don't drill down into the neighborhood happenings, she said. "It makes the community feel special, I think."