Louise Red Corn never wanted to own a newspaper. She liked the reporting end of journalism. But after moving to Osage County, Oklahoma, she quit her job at Tulsa World and bought The Bigheart Times.
The paper covers all the news of Osage County, a county in Oklahoma larger than Delaware, with a bigger population of cattle than people. Defying the death of newspapers around the country, The Bigheart Times tripled its circulation in the first three years after Red Corn bought it.
Raymond Red Corn: Before Louise bought the paper, what passed for news was downtown Barnsdall was on a route of these giant windmill parts. The former publisher of the paper would take a very small digital camera and he would walk outside when they had to negotiate…
Louise Red Corn: I don’t think he walked outside.
RRC: You think he took it through the window?
LR: Through the window.
RRC: Of window—when the truck came around the corner in front of his paper office, he would take a picture through the window and put it in the paper.
My name’s Louise Red Corn and I’m the publisher of The Bigheart Times of Barnsdall.
RRC: I’m Raymond Red Corn, Louise’s husband.
LRC: I graduated from Berkeley with the United Nations in Rome… for Time Magazine for two years… My son, Harold, for about seven or eight years… Free Press, Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky.
I moved here to Pawhuska when I got married and then I went to work at the Tulsa World. But I wasn’t a very camper at the Tulsa World. I bitched a lot and I came home one night and husband said, “You know Louise, maybe we should just buy a paper. Why don’t we just buy a weekly paper? I was just standing in Barnsdall today and met with the owner of the newspaper there and he doesn’t look very well. I bet he’d sell.” It turned out the newspaper, the Barnsdall Times as it was called at the time was for sale and within two weeks of that conversation we owned the Barnsdall Times.
I only cover local news. If it doesn’t happen in Osage County I don’t care but I think there’s a lot of news in these towns. It’s news that gets ignored by anyone but the local media. And it’s not necessarily news that should be ignored. I mean by way of example we had – there’s a guy named Coy Everett. I had no idea who Coy Everett was but it turned that Coy Everett was the perpetrator of the largest oil and gas scam in the history of Oklahoma back in the late 1980s. He was a former OSU, I believe, football player. He was sort of the darling of Shawnee and he’d managed to bilk all of these people all over the United States out of $30 million or $40 million or $50 million. And then he’d gotten out of federal prison for that and he’d ended up back in prison for another check kiting scam and the day he gets out, the City of Harmony hires him to work in public works. And he quickly works his way up to being Public Works Director. And then he forged some city checks and made them out to himself and cashed them. Then he got arrested for taking these public checks and pleaded guilty and went away to prison for 20 years. I mean it was just boom, it was over. It was just bizarre because I mean here was this guy in our own little community who had this long and sordid history of financial crime and the Tulsa World didn’t cover it, The Daily Oklahoman didn’t cover it. It’s the only newspaper in the world that covered this story. So, I think there is a big future in local journalism. The circulation of the paper has more than tripled since I bought it. So I’m not claiming to be Rupert Murdoch any time soon but. But you know, it supports itself and that’s good for it; that helps support the community.