David Phillips, publisher and owner of the Bluff Country Newspaper Group, is pictured with Darlene and Myron Schober of the Tri-County Record during the recent 35-year celebratory event recognizing the Schobers’ tenure at the newspaper. Phillips took over ownership on March 1.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->BCNG/File photo
David Phillips, publisher and owner of the Bluff Country Newspaper Group, is pictured with Darlene and Myron Schober of the Tri-County Record during the recent 35-year celebratory event recognizing the Schobers’ tenure at the newspaper. Phillips took over ownership on March 1.

BCNG/File photo
The Tri-County Record of Rushford is now part of the Bluff Country Newspaper Group.

Phillips Publishing, Inc., purchased the community newspaper owned by Darlene and Myron Schober for nearly 35 years. The transfer of ownership took place March 1.

The group of newspapers includes the Chatfield News, the News-Record of Harmony, the Republican-Leader of Preston, the Spring Grove Herald and the Spring Valley Tribune. The Bluff Country Reader, a regional, free newspaper is also part of the network.

"I've known Myron Schober for many years and have always respected his journalistic excellence and integrity. I know I will have big shoes to fill," said David Phillips, owner and publisher of the newspapers in Bluff Country Newspaper Group.

With the transition to group ownership, there will be changes, but all the newspapers in the group have local autonomy and Phillips plans to maintain a strong local presence in the community.

The office will remain in the same location and many of the employees who have served readers in the past will continue at their positions with the Tri-County Record.

"As is the case with all our papers, we constantly strive for improvement and we hope to provide an even better hometown newspaper for the people of Rushford with an emphasis on Rushford activities and people," said Phillips.

Although questions about the viability of newspapers remain, Phillips said he believes there is still a place for community newspapers that tie a community together.

Schober worked hard to establish that community connection.

"It takes ethical journalists and experienced marketers, and community knowledge and dedicated advertisers to make a community newspaper work. No Internet, phone gimmick or sign board or mail piece can compare," said Schober.

"There's a human touch we need to pass from generation to generation, or we'll all become irrelevant vapor-ware."

In its early years the Tri-County Record earned over 50 awards for service and excellence including more in advertising excellence than any other newspaper in Minnesota.

It stopped entering the Minnesota Newspaper Association contest, but after the Rushford flood was cited with the Frank Premack award for its several weeks of coverage after the flood including the headline "Rushford, Pawlenty's Katrina," read all over the Midwest and cited by some legislators for provoking the special legislative session, which led to financial aid. The Premack is often called Minnesota's Pulitzer Prize.

The Bluff Country Newspaper Group newspapers have also won several awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association, including general excellence, general reporting and editorial page.

The most recent year, the newspaper group won eight awards in advertising, editorial and photography excellence.

Phillips has more than 30 years experience in the field, starting as a freelance writer in the southern United States.

His father, originally from Iowa, but living in upstate New York at the time, purchased the Spring Valley Tribune in 1974.

In 1981, while living in Houston, Texas, where he worked for a suburban newspaper, moved to the area to help him, serving as reporter and then as editor.

He took over ownership in 1988 and added other newspapers starting in 1991.

"We wish him and his people well and will help in the transition," said Schober. "I'm sure the Tri-County Record will earn another 98 years of community respect."