On June 4, Lisa Drafall assumed the reins as publisher of the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch

As the publisher of four small-town Midwestern newspapers, Lisa Drafall believes that local news plays a vital role in the communities they serve.

“Local stories matter," said Drafall, who has a near two-decade experience in the news industry. “And, in my experience, these local stories can transcend beyond the communities they write about.”

On June 4, Drafall assumed the reins as publisher of the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch and the St. James Plaindealer, in addition to her current publisher role for the Redwood Gazette and Wabasso Standard.

“The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch is a publication that has managed to generate over 10,000 unique readerships in Brown County,” said Drafall. “This restructuring is a way to capitalize on the paper’s increasing relevance in the digital landscape.”

Drafall is a Senior Group Publisher with Gatehouse Media, overseeing nine newspapers and five shoppers in the Minnesota/North Dakota region.

Drafall believes that local newspapers can beat the suggestion they are a dying medium through community engagement and adaptation to the digital landscape.

“Content is important,” said Drafall. “We want to attract an audience, and provide content that our readers can immerse themselves in.”

Drafall cited that her role as publisher will not interfere with the editorial content of the paper. Instead, her role seeks to build the branding of the newspaper and lead it into an evolving age of digitization.

Staying ahead of the curve is the essence of Drafall's work, and since she got her foot in the door of the news business, she has always found a way to work with the evolving landscape of the news industry.

It’s fitting that in 2000, a year sandwiched between the Y2K paranoia and the beginning of the Internet explosion, Drafall got her start in the news industry at Redding, Calif. based Record Searchlight.

In an environment where many tried in vain to prevent the slippage of print readers, Drafall would always think of ways to use emerging digital trends to promote her paper.

“For a few years, I was always thinking of ways to promote and use all mediums at our disposal, but no one listened to me for a while,” the Northern California import joked.

But then Drafall would receive career-altering advice from a colleague, Deb Smiddy. In a heavy southern accent, Smiddy challenged Drafall to become the best in whatever role she was given.

Soon, Drafall would rise through the ranks at Record Spotlight and began working with various restaurants on digital marketing campaigns to boost their business and grow a more extensive base.

Her work at Record Searchlight led to Drafall becoming the Director of Marketing and Sales in one of the top news stations in Northern California, KRCR News Channel 7.

Despite employing unique marketing strategies that moved KRCR from number two to number one in Northern California, Drafall felt compelled—through a need to be close to her family—to make the jump from big city California to small-town Minnesota.

However, it's the experiences and lessons from her sunny days in California that she hopes to inject into the Herald-Dispatch.

“There will be incremental changes, but changes that allow the Herald-Dispatch to be accessible and multidimensional for readers and prospective readers.”

The staff of the Herald-Dispatch is thankful and appreciative to past leadership of the publication and is looking forward to its new direction under Drafall.