Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mary and Pete Hollister, Vernon County Broadcaster-Censor, Viroqua, Wis

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mary and Pete Hollister, Vernon County Broadcaster-Censor, Viroqua, Wis

Article excerpt

Mary and Pete Hollister Vernon County Broadcaster-Censor Viroqua, Wis.

"Why don't we buy a newspaper?"

It seemed logical enough. Pete Hollister had 20 years of solid business experience, having been president of three banks in North Dakota and Minnesota. Wife Mary had taught journalism and worked for weekly newspapers. "It seemed like a good combination of our talents," Mary says.

By his own admission, Pete was "fed up to the gills with banking."

So the Hollisters went shopping for a paper and a town. With the help of newspaper consultant Gene Chamberlin, they settled on the Vernon County Broadcaster-Censor, Viroqua, Wis.

"It had the things we were looking for," Pete explains - a healthy business community, the county seat, and an opportunity to make meaningful changes - "and," Pete adds, "we could afford the paper."

Just one problem. The B-C wasn't for sale, but the three owners, Ardelle Terwilliger, Art Lundell and Merland Lind were nearing retirement after having worked together for 25 years. They agreed to talk.

"It was kind of like a job interview," Mary recollects.

"It was really a question of whether or not they liked us," Pete suggests.

Apparently the owners liked the Hollisters just fine. They met on a Saturday and called on Tuesday to say "Sure." Thirty days later, Sept. 30, 1989, the Hollisters had a purchasing agreement, and the deal closed Oct. 14, just about six months after the Hollisters had decided to get into newspapering.

Getting to know Main Street

His banking background has proved to be "very, very helpful" in putting out the paper, Pete observes. "You get to know a little bit about a lot of businesses up and down Main Street. I gained an understanding of what the retailers are going through."

The Hollisters list themselves as co-publishers. Pete sells some ads, handles 15-20 accounts and does all job pricing, ordering, bill paying and the payroll. Mary takes care of the editorial side.

Art Lundell has stayed on to head the back shop, where the operation includes a two-unit Goss Press.

Learning by doing

Mary got her start in newspapering in Rolla, N.D., which she describes as "a wonderful town," and Pete adds, "180 miles from anywhere." When she got hired by the Turtle Mountain Star, "I didn't know anything," she asserts. "I had to go out and buy a camera." Her on-the-job training was "kind of exciting." She did everything - sports, news, features, a column and, she adds, "I covered the school board. That was one of the chief reasons I got hired. There were fishy things going on."

Two bank transfers later, the Hollisters wound up in Blue Earth, Minn., where Mary worked briefly for the Blue Earth Post-Ambassador. "The publisher asked if I'd help out," Mary recalls. "That was on a Monday. Wednesday I saw my name listed in the masthead as managing editor."

From there the couple and their two boys moved to Cannon Falls, Minn., and Mary got her master's in English at the nearby University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus.

Then they made the jump into newspapering and the move to Viroqua.

The Walworth connection

Mary hails from Mobridge, S.D., and Pete from the Lake Geneva, Wis., area, but both can say they come from a Walworth County. …

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