News of Norway, issue 5, 1998
Published weekly (except for the month of August and last week of December), Western Viking is read by about 20,000 readers. The mailing list numbers 3,000.
Knowing that Norway is among the countries with the highest number of newspapers per capita in the world and that the number of Norwegian-Americans in the U.S. now totals more than the number of Norwegians living in Norway (about 4.6 mill.), one might see why Knudsen calls her paper a well kept secret.
This thirst for news was something the immigrants brought with them. When settling in the U.S., the immigrants entered the assimilation process, trying to become good Americans. They learned the language, attended school and worked hard earning a living. But the desire for news from the Homeland never died.
Since 1845, 562 Norwegian newspapers have rolled off the presses here in America, satisfying the immigrants need to stay connected to their roots.
The Western Viking has been going strong since first being published on May 17, 1889. This 109 year old newspaper is actually comprised of six newspapers: Washington Posten, Decorah Posten, Ved Arnen, Minneapolis-Tidende, Minnesota Posten, Norrøna and Skandinaven. Knudsen said that the reason why the newspaper has survived for over a decade is that they give real coverage. "It is not a tabloid," she explained. "It is honest coverage of what is going on."
Originally, the intent was to publish it in Norwegian, but the goal now is to have a fifty/femti (50/50) publication. According to Knudsen, in reality it will sometimes lean more towards a 25/75 or vice versa, but in the end it equals out. Knudsen does receive complaints about there being too much Norwegian in the paper, but then again she also receives complaints that there are too many English articles.
The bilingual column Doubletalk provides something for every taste. Snippets of news are printed side by side in Norwegian and an English translation. According to Knudsen, this column was initially received with some skepticism, but has become extremely popular. It is also used in language classes both at the university level and in Sons of Norway lodges around the country.
Overall though, the Western Viking readers are a faithful and supportive group. For some, the Western Viking is a necessity. When their newspaper doesn't arrive on time-Friday after the mailman has been there-they are sure to let Knudsen know before she leaves for the weekend. "The arrival of Western Viking in their mailbox is the highpoint of their week," Knudsen said.
Knudsen usually asks the unlucky reader to wait until Monday and if the paper hasn't arrived by then to give her a call and she will put another one in the mail. The standing joke is that the paper is late because it takes time for the mailman to read the whole issue. In most cases like this, the subscriber does get his or her Western Viking by Monday.
It is these phone calls from the elderly subscribers every week that makes the late nights and all the hard work worth it to Knudsen. "I can't think of a better compliment," she said.
She has been the editor since 1997, when her father Dr. Alf Lunder Knudsen (editor from 1990-1997) turned the reigns over to her. He remains on the masthead as assistant editor, and Knudsen said that he continues to be a mentor. "He is the wise elder in the bunch," she said. In addition to her father, she has a number of other rådgivere (advisors), without whom she couldn't do the paper, she added.
From 1990 to 1996, working at the Western Viking was a second full time job for Knudsen. When the company where she worked as a systems analyst ran into problems with mismanagement and placed her on furlough in 1996, Knudsen decided to leave and do the newspaper full time as her only job.
She doesn't seem to regret this decision. The Western Viking is a labor of love on everybody's part, she explained. The newspaper has about 25 correspondents scattered all over the U.S. The number of reporters fluctuates as certain infrequent correspondents when visiting a particular event will report for the paper. The work is unpaid, but the correspondents receive token bonuses once a year. "The correspondents are to a good portion the life and blood of this paper," Knudsen said. It is impossible to be everywhere and cover everything that is happening in all the states, she added.
Western Viking is a publication of extremely wide coverage, giving readers an insight into what happens in the Norwegian communities all over the country and an update on what is going on in Norway. In addition to news, Western Viking also offers articles on culture and sports, of course, on page 12.
The philosophy of the paper through ten editors has been, "Meeting the needs of the Norwegians, the Norwegian immigrants and descendants." Since it is something they have needed for the last 109 years, her task is to continue that and to make the modifications needed to survive, said Knudsen.
For Norwegian-Americans, the many newspapers they founded became their voice in America. For many Norwegians and their descendants, Western Viking is that voice today. "It is a symbol of their accomplishments," Knudsen said. "And, it provides documentation of their accomplishments."
Would you like to become a subscriber?
Contact Western Viking
PO Box 70408 Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Ph.: (206) 784-7617 Fax: (206) 784-4856
$35 per year in the U.S.; US$40(CDN$55) to Canada
US$45 to Norway (Air mail available @ $150)
(Published weekly except during month of August and last week of the calendar year.)
If you are interested in advertising rates, contact the Western Viking at address or numbers listed above.