Since March 25, 1968, the Courier has been providing news and local happenings to the residents of Callaway. And for the past 32 years or so, Michael A. Wendorf and his wife Suzanne have been at the helm. In other words, when people not only in Callaway but anywhere in Nebraska, hear the name Callaway Courier they automatically think of the Wendorfs.
Newspapers are an integral and very important part of a small community. That is what prompted two Gothenburg businessmen to delve into the newspaper industry in the first place – to keep alive that important piece of community history for future generations. Now that goal has expanded beyond city and county borders, and into the village of Callaway. On Oct. 1, 2021, Syndicate Publishing of Gothenburg officially took ownership of the Callaway Courier.
Syndicate Publishing is owned by Colten Venteicher and John Bell of Gothenburg. In July 2019 the two men decided to venture out in faith and start a brand new newspaper – the Gothenburg Leader. They compiled a team who shared their vision and passion for community journalism, purchased a few computers and software, and some camera equipment, and went to work. That team is now poised to step out in faith once again to serve the community of Callaway.
“Our firm believes that small towns need to have a local paper, and we are excited about Callaway because it is a community on the rise,” said co-owner Colten Venteicher.
The team who will be continuing the legacy of the Callaway Courier consists of: Rebecca Steward, General Manager and sports reporter; Alisa Mullen, Sales & Marketing Manager; Ellen Mortensen, news and feature reporter; and Mark Lewis, graphic and page design specialist.
MEET THE TEAM:
Co-Owner Colten Venteicher graduated from the Creighton University School of Law in 2016, and said becoming a newspaper owner was not at all on his to-do list. But after moving to Gothenburg to begin his law practice, Colten said he fell in love with the community and began to see a link that was missing.
Colten immediately became very involved in all areas of the community, and said that he felt there was a need for a hyper-local news outlet. That eventually led him to the decision to join in partnership with John Bell to form the Gothenburg Leader.
“Just as our philosophy has been in Gothenburg, we want the Courier to continue to be a champion of the community of Callaway and the surrounding area,” Colten said. “Our mission is to provide accurate, community focused content in order to promote the long-term growth and sustainability of the community.”
Co-owner John Bell has lived in Gothenburg since he was 10, and says his primary interest since he was a child has always been visual communication. He said like Gothenburg, Callaway is a unique community and needs to be documented.
“I believe that a local news outlet is a cornerstone for sustainability in a rural area such as ours. A paper is important. A community is much less attractive to potential residents and employers without one,” said John. “Colten and I are perfect partners – our strengths are opposite of one another and we both believe in the need for the community to be documented. We have worked hard in Gothenburg to address something Colten and I felt was missing in regard to a vibrant community. We have the human resources in place to do the same for Callaway.”
Rebecca Steward – Publications Director/Sports Writer is a graduate of Gothenburg High School and moved to Lincoln after graduation to be a Husker and work towards becoming a journalist. She said along the way, she found her way into Sports Management and followed that path into a career in minor league sports that took her to Texas.
“You know that old saying, ‘it’s in my blood?’ For me, that’s true about farming, baseball and newsprint,” said Rebecca. “I come from a long line of farmers on my dad’s side of the family, and a long line of newspaper writing baseball lovers on my mom’s side.”
While she said working in sports was truly the experience of a lifetime, it is not great for family life. Rebecca decided to leave the industry to move back to Nebraska with her husband, John and 4-year old daughter, Raylin.
“Being back here has truly been a joy, and to now be a part of the Callaway Courier is an honor.”
Ellen Mortensen – News/Feature Writer brings 20 years of media experience to the job. In 2000, Ellen began working at KCNI/KBBN radio in Broken Bow as the weekend sign-on DJ. In 2002, she began working full-time at the radio station, where she developed a loyal following as “the church lady”. In 2005, Ellen transitioned from radio to newspaper when she joined the staff of the Custer County Chief. In 2014 she returned to KCNI/KBBN as news director until relocating to Gothenburg in 2016.
“I was elated when I got the call in June 2019, asking if I was interested in being part of a new paper in town,” Ellen said. “I love what we are doing here and the talented team I work with. This truly is my dream job. I am so excited to have the opportunity to come back to Custer County! I have always loved the Callaway community and am looking forward to reconnecting.”
Alisa Mullen – Marketing Director has a passion for building relationships and marketing that started early with a career in the ag sector. She grew up heavily involved in 4-H and FFA, which easily translated into 20 years of farming and ranching, specializing in marketing horses and cattle. A Kansas native, Alisa moved to the Gothenburg area with her husband and three young kids in 2008, continuing her work in agriculture there. Shortly after the opening of the Leader, she joined the team as a Brady community writer, transitioning to the marketing position this past spring.
“I’m a farm girl, through and through, and I love fostering new ideas and deeper connections in rural areas,” said Mullen. “I’m excited to serve the people in the Callaway area, and to be a part of not only their continued growth, but also their enduring legacy as a forward thinking community.”