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Thief River Falls newspaper sold

The Thief River Falls Times/Northern Watch newspaper has been sold, but its new publisher is more than familiar with northwestern Minnesota.

John Mattson, Thief River Falls Times owner, told his staff of 19 on Monday of the sale of the paper and its printing plant to MCM Media. Mattson said the sale becomes official June 30.

"It was an opportunity for me and a good opportunity for them," Mattson told the Herald on Wednesday. "It made sense."

Mattson said he's very pleased the new publisher, operations manager and part owner will be Randy Hultgren, who has been the publisher of the Crookston Daily Times for the past 17 years. Hultgren was born in Lake Bronson, Minn., and graduated from high school in Karlstad, Minn.

Hultgren said it's like coming home.

"I live in Maple Lake, so it's just a different direction to go to work," Hultgren said. "I'm really excited. It's sad to leave Crookston where I've made many friends and been supported by the staff and the community. It's just an opportunity to buy a really nice newspaper that's been really well run."

"I really didn't want to sell to a huge chain where people here didn't own it," Mattson said. "It's great to have a local person to run a local paper."

Mattson has owned the Thief River Falls Times/Northern Watch since July 1986. It had been in the Mattson family since it was purchased by the Mattson brothers, Alvin, Edgar and C. Waldemar, of Warren, Minn., in October 1923. The first edition was printed in 1911.

Hultgren said he has notified his Crookston staff and his employer, Gate House Publishing. His replacement will be named at a later date. Carl Melbye has been named interim publisher. Hultgren said no immediate changes are planned in Thief River Falls.

"I don't see anything from the outside looking in," Hultgren said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to