A fixture of downtown Minneapolis for five decades, the Journal newspaper calls it quits
Co-owner Terry Gahan cited dwindling advertising revenue and the area’s changing demographics as the chief reasons.
Now published every two weeks, the paper debuted in 1970 as the Skyway News, an ad-packed free weekly with a heavy emphasis on fashion, gossip and trends. For more than two decades the publication ran a regular installment that shined the spotlight on a “Ms. Skyway”; Sen. Amy Klobuchar received the distinction in March 1988 — an honor she joked about on a recent episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
Co-founders Sam Kaufman and Clinton Andrus were so successful that they eventually starting filling downtown racks with two issues a week and briefly launched a St. Paul edition.
Gahan and his wife, Janis Hall, purchased the paper in 2001 and put out their first issue the day before the 9/11 attacks.
“The first thing I thought [then] was, ‘We’re done,’ ” Gahan said this week, remembering how advertisers pulled out in fear that people would stop frequenting metro shopping hubs. “But then we decided to put our heads down and ride it out. We knew that the Target flagship store was coming. We knew about the light rail. We saw downtown Minneapolis converting into a much hipper, much cooler place to be and said, ‘Let’s be there when all that stuff happens.’ Business dried up for about six months, but then it got back to normal.”
The paper, later renamed the Downtown Journal, benefitted from the influx of condo units in the central city. Its target readers switched from downtown workers to people moving into the new high-rises. The paper also benefitted from such developments as the Target store that opened on Nicollet Mall in 2001.
“We were really good at capturing the moment when downtown was reaching its full potential,” said David Brauer, who served as the Journal’s editor from 2001-06. “That was really fun and really rewarding.”
Revenue shrank when the condo boom went bust and housing units began relying more heavily on younger renters.
“When Mrs. Smith’s 100-year-old oak tree goes down in a neighborhood of homeowners, people care,” Gahan said. “But young people living downtown don’t care about it because, at some point, they’re going to move on.”
In its heyday, the Journal distributed 30,000 copies; these days, the number is closer to 24,000.
Gahan said the closing won’t trigger any layoffs. His 12 full-time staffers will continue to work at his family’s other publications: the Southwest Journal, Minnesota Good Age and Minnesota Parenting.
Editor Dylan Thomas is tentatively planning to turn the final issue on Dec. 13 into a retrospective. Don’t be surprised if Klobuchar’s “Skyway” moment makes the cut.
Neal Justin covers the entertainment world, primarily TV and radio. He also reviews stand-up comedy. Justin is the founder of JCamp, a non-profit program for high-school journalists, and works on many fronts to further diversity in newsrooms.