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How the Webster-Kirkwood Times maintains its print edition amid a changing media landscape

Ursula Ruhl
The owners of the Webster-Kirkwood Times include, from left, Randy Drilingas, Jaime Mowers and Kent Tentschert. The three employees purchased the newspaper from former Publisher Dwight Bitikofer in 2020.

Three years ago Randy Drilingas and Jaime Mowers, alongside their colleague Kent Tentschert, went from being employees of the Webster-Kirkwood Times to becoming owners of the paper. One of their first decisions as publishers was to relaunch the print issue of the newspaper after six months of it being published solely online.

“I'm extremely happy,” Drilingas said. “I'm glad to be able to bring the newspaper back to the town that loves it, and I feel like things have been going as good as they possibly can.”

At a time when many print publications in the region are cutting down their delivery services or going online only, Webster-Kirkwood Times has nearly 30,000 print subscribers. In 2021, Drilingas and Mowers told St. Louis on the Air that their audience requested that print editions of the paper continue to be delivered.

“We felt like this was worth the risk because the community just kept asking for it,” she said at the time. “That makes all the difference.”

The move from reporter to publisher has been “a huge undertaking,” Mowers said. And with only 11 staffers, she added, each employee is “doing the job of three to four people. … We work very hard to be able to put out the paper each week.” Mowers is one of three writers staffed by the paper — and the only writer who works full time.

Despite the increases in printing and staffing costs, Drilingas said that they are making it work and that ad revenue is doing well thanks to the support of local businesses.

“If we were only online, that would be very easy. It's harder to do what we do, to put out a print paper,” he said. “We need a strong community that will read the paper.”

Right now, the Webster-Kirkwood Times has a strong community. “They're part of the paper because the stories we do are about them,” Drilingas said. “[Then,] the businesses come in, they advertise, and the people that read the paper use those advertisers. … It's a circle of everybody in the community that makes it all happen.”

Bill Freivogel, left, Linda Lockhart, middle, and Nicholas Phillips
Emily Woodbury
Bill Freivogel, left; Linda Lockhart, middle; and Nicholas Phillips, right

Randy Drilingas and Jaime Mowers joined St. Louis on the Air to reflect on the three-year anniversary of the Webster-Kirkwood Times purchase and recent stories they’ve covered. 

Hear that interview, followed by a roundtable discussion about the state of St. Louis print and online media — featuring Bill Freivogel, Southern Illinois University Carbondale journalism professor and publisher of the Gateway Journalism Review; retired St. Louis journalist Linda Lockhart; and Nicholas Phillips, senior editor at St. Louis Magazine — by listening to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

What's the current state, value and future of print media in the St. Louis area?

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.