Through thick and thin, Cecile Wehrman remains the steward of Journal Publishing

Teri Saylor

Special to Publishers' Auxiliary

Jul 1, 2022

Journal Production Manager Tia LaCombe (left) and Owner/Publisher Cecile Wehrman arrive at their local courthouse with suitcases containing computer equipment to put out the May 4 editions of the Crosby Journal and Tioga Tribune during a five-day power outage, caused by two back-to-back blizzards. The courthouse was the only place they could find with a generator. Wehrman says she s sporting a North Dakota Newspaper Association ball cap because she had not had a chance to shower in three days. “Talk about a bad hair day,” she joked. “But we got our newspapers published.” (provided)

Cecile Wehrman can’t recall a defining moment that forged her path to a career in community newspapers. It was more like a natural progression. As the owner of Journal Publishing in Crosby, North Dakota, she keeps busy churning out the weekly Crosby Journal and Tioga Tribune, where she has worked for the past 23 years.

As long as she can remember, she has wanted to be in the news business.

“I was a 22-year-old with stars in her eyes who wanted to be a TV newswoman, but a funny thing happened — I actually did become a journalist,” she said. “Pretty early on, because I saw the impact of the work we were doing, I loved being on the scene and in-the-know and getting to share information with people.”

Wehrman, 59, took the reins of Journal Publishing in 2012 following in the footsteps of the storied Andrist family who had owned the Crosby Journal since 1921.
The Journal dates back to 1902, Wehrman says, adding that “modern” history began with the purchase of the Crosby Eagle in 1921 by Calvin L. Andrist and a partner.

The partner left the business, leaving Andrist as sole publisher. By the 1950s, second-generation publisher John Andrist took the helm. His son, Steve, followed as publisher in 1991. Four years later, Steve purchased the nearby Tioga Tribune to form Journal Publishing.

In 2012, Wehrman bought the business from Steve, “following 13 years working as his news editor — also known as the only reporter,” she joked.

Through thick and thin, devastating crises, destructive weather events, economic downturns, and industry changes, Wehrman has experienced life at its best, and she has seen the worst.

While she believes community newspapers are strong, she frets about their future.

“Like most newspapers, our role has changed,” she said. “Whereas 20 years ago, you could consider us the ‘community’s Bible,’ today’s fragmented media landscape has chipped away at that.”

She is also saddened to see how the regard for journalism has diminished in recent years.

“Our subscribers are predominantly my age or older, and the most important thing we can do as publishers is to find ways to engage younger readers, young families, and win back the regard our industry used to have,” she said. “We are not ‘the enemy of the people’ but ‘champions for the people.’”

She added that the best defense is to just keep doing good work.

“It’s been a joy to be employed in journalism for the majority of my adult life,” Wehrman said. “I wouldn’t trade it for more money.”


“I head up sales, promotions and bookkeeping, and I write a regular column and contribute to the news copy,” Wehrman said. “My husband, Brad Nygaard, is the Journal’s main reporter, having previously spent 40 years as a television photojournalist. Jacob Orledge is the reporter in Tioga, named Rookie of the Year by NNA a few years back. We also have a sports reporter who covers for both newspapers, a production manager and two part-time office positions.”


“A college internship at a radio station led me to broadcasting school with the goal of being on TV,” Wehrman said. “I worked my way from my first TV job in Williston, North Dakota, in 1985, to Grand Forks, 1987-1989, then moved with my photojournalist husband to Wichita, Kansas, where we were both employed at KAKE-TV.

“The TV news business, even in a medium-sized market can really take a toll on relationships. When we divorced, I thought I had kissed TV news goodbye and married a farmer back in North Dakota — where I wound up working at a TV station again. The 140-mile-a-day round trip commute was too much after five years, so I got a job in economic development closer to home.

“Over the years, writing became a much greater love than TV, and I set my sights on a job at The Journal, which was only 30 miles from the farm. Steve hired me in 1999. Twelve years later, we began planning how an ownership deal could be worked for me. Steve was a fabulous mentor, and he is truly someone who ‘walks the talk’ by electing to self-finance the next publisher, rather than sell to a chain.”


“The September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized our newspapers’ resolve to cover national and global events in a way that resonated with local readers,” Wehrman said.

She continued, “In April of this year, Crosby had two blizzards back-to-back, followed by a five-day power outage. With the forecast showing the potential for icing, I worked long hours to get as much of our layout done for both papers as was possible. As wet, heavy snow fell on the first day of the blizzard, I remained at the office to get even further ahead and make sure Tioga had all their page templates as filled in as possible. The lights went out at 7:30 p.m.

“Brad and I spent all day Sunday gathering news, sharing on social media and uploading stories to our website, pushing out newsletters to our subscribers, etc. Most of this was accomplished with an inverter plugging a laptop into vehicles. I got permission to plug in a couple of computers at the courthouse (which was powered by a generator), so we could get our editions out.

“It took about 12 hours — twice as long as usual — to finish our layouts for the two papers using two laptops, one tower and our computer ‘brain,’ but we got it done. We are the only news organizations covering Crosby and Tioga every day, so the news was vital and not available anywhere else.”


“I wanted to be Louisa May Alcott — a novelist,” Wehrman said.


“It’s hard to get away,” Wehrman said, “except by binge-watching favorite shows: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, Yellowstone, etc. We have been planning a trip to Europe for my 60th birthday.”


Most people do not know "that I do not consider myself the 'owner' of The Journal or Tioga Tribune," Wehrman said. "I see myself more as a steward of these institutions, which are for the community, not for my enrichment. I do not consider myself “powerful,” nor do I seek to use the power of the press to harm people. I think people would be most surprised to know that everything we print is printed because we believe it to be true, we believe it to be in the public interest and because the public needs to know it."


“The Journal is just under 2,000, and the Tribune is 1,350” Wehrman said. “We publish every Wednesday.” Distribution is primarily by mail, “with about 15% of sales on newsstands.”


“We have a shared website where both papers have an online edition,” Wehrman said. “Last year, we added a mobile app.”


Cecile Wehrman, PO BOX E, Crosby, ND 58730

Teri Saylor is a business writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her at