Vision loss threatened to put this former newswoman in the dark. Now her friends are delivering the news.

WEST POINT – Gwen Lindberg sits in her plush beige recliner, and listens to the news. 

Not from the television, or the radio, but from the loud and clear voice of Gloria Wellman, sitting next to Lindberg and reading from the small-town newspaper that Lindberg devoted decades of her life to.  

Wellman is one of 10 volunteer readers around West Point – friends of Lindberg who take turns showing up and reading to the 89-year-old once a week. They relay updates and obituaries from the Imperial Republican, Lindberg’s hometown paper. And they read of road closures and Christmas plays and court reports from the West Point News, the weekly paper she and her husband Richard “Dick” Lindberg published together for 23 years.  

Four years ago, the music notes on Lindberg’s piano sheet music started blurring together. It was the beginning of macular degeneration that has turned her vision into a blur of colors and shapes, with darkness in the middle. It made it impossible for her to live on her own, and impossible to read the news she used to help document. 

When Lindberg moved into St. Joseph’s Hillside Villa in March, her daughter-in-law Jody worried: How is Mom going to read the paper? Nurses at the long-term care facility had their jobs to do. None of Lindberg’s children live in West Point, roughly 80 miles northwest of Omaha. 

Gwen Lindberg and her husband were newspaper people through and through. The ink’s in her blood, her daughter-in-law said. Not being able to keep up with local news would have left a huge void in her life. 

She thought: What if we enlisted her friends?

Jody Lindberg pulled together six people who volunteered to rotate turns reading to her mother-in-law. The roster has since grown to 10, with a few substitutes – longtime friends who show up for a hug and a chat over that week’s news. 

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“I do it because I love Gwen, who doesn’t love Gwen?” Wellman said. “I wish I could read more often, actually. There’s too many people, I only get to read every two and a half months.”

Gloria Wellman said she enjoys reading the West Point News to Gwen Lindberg. Wellman reads with the voice of a performer – the pair met through West Point Community Theater. Photo by Abiola Kosoko for the Flatwater Free Press

Lindberg’s life with newspapers started in Imperial, where the teenager who loved diagramming sentences in English class met the guy who worked printing the newspaper across the street from her parent’s drugstore. Every day, he’d come in and buy a Cherry Coke and a Rocky Mountain News. 

“And that’s how I met my husband,” Lindberg said. 

The couple married soon after she graduated high school in 1952 and moved to Littlefield, Texas, where Dick worked as a printer for the local paper. Gwen Lindberg did a little bit of everything there. She proofed pages, collected bills, did typesetting – until one day, the machine blew up after a cleaning. 

After a few years, the family moved back to Nebraska when Dick got a job at the Ord Quiz. The pair eventually leased and then bought the Sargent Leader in 1956 – the first time they owned a paper of their own. 

In 1969, they bought the West Point Republican. A few years later, they bought the competing Cuming County Democrat, merging to make the West Point News. The couple also owned papers in Scribner, Lyons, Hooper and Oakland. 

For 36 years in both Sargent and West Point, Lindberg wrote the weekly column, “Small Talk.” On the same page was her husband’s column, “Nearly News.” In the center, an editorial cartoon, often drawn by Lindberg herself. 

Lindberg said her columns were a success if she could make a reader laugh. She wrote about people around town and the Girl Scout group she was den mother for. Her four sons would make it into her column, but only by nickname – the boys wanted $5 in exchange for each time their names appeared in the paper.

Gwen and Dick Lindberg at work at the Sargent Leader, which the couple owned for 13 years. Vision loss keeps Gwen Lindberg from reading the paper herself, but friends in West Point volunteer to come read to the 89-year-old every week. Courtesy photo

But in a town as small as West Point, population 3,504, loyal readers could still tell which son or resident she was writing about. 

Occasionally, her lighthearted column would turn more serious. In 1975, Lindberg sponsored a refugee family of 10 from Vietnam. Before they arrived, she used her column to ask the readers of mostly white West Point to be welcoming to the newcomers. She once wrote a column “coming out of the closet” as a Democrat in her largely conservative town. 

She didn’t worry about whether it made readers mad – God didn’t give her a worry gene, she said. 

In 2014, Lindberg was inducted into the Marian Andersen Nebraska Women Journalists Hall of Fame. The Nebraska-shaped plaque is proudly displayed on a shelf filled with family photos. 

Now, Lindberg listens to the stories from the paper she and her husband sold in 1992. After 54 years living in West Point, she knows most every person and place mentioned in the pages. 

In Lindberg’s room, Wellman unfurls this week’s West Point News. She projects with stage presence – she and Lindberg met through West Point Community Theater, where Lindberg accompanied musicals on piano for years. 

Gwen Lindberg plays piano in her West Point home, something she started as a young girl in Imperial. Throughout her life, Lindberg played organ at church, accompanied student singers at scholarship auditions, and accompanied the West Point Community Theater. Courtesy photo

The 1A story is what Lindberg calls a “good happenings” story – a newborn baby in town who received a liver transplant. It’s something amazing, she said, the kind of story that makes you feel connected to other people. The sort of story, she thinks, that could get edged off the front page at a big-city newspaper.  

Wellman reads a story about a new movie theater in town. She reads aloud about the  anniversary of the long-term care facility where Lindberg lives. “This one’s by Ashley,” Wellman says, reading the byline. She reads the “Days Gone By” – news clippings from the past 125 years telling stories of record breaking crop yields, a man getting run over by his own wagon, a blizzard that rocked the town in the 1940s. 

It’s been 31 years since Lindberg and her husband retired from the news industry. She’s watched the paper get thinner and thinner over the years. The switch from using paper boys to mail delivery. There are more pictures on the pages, and they’re in color now. 

Lindberg thinks she got out of the industry at a good time, glad to have missed the rise of social media, the internet and misinformation. 

The West Point News today stays owned by Nebraskans – Enterprise Publishing based in Blair bought the paper, and publishes nine weeklies in Nebraska and three in Iowa. 

But nationally and throughout Nebraska, small-town papers like the ones Lindberg published are disappearing. Since 2005, the U.S. has lost nearly 2,900 newspapers, according to a recent report from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. In the past year, there’s been 130 confirmed newspaper closings.  

In Nebraska, the number of journalists has nosedived from 880 in 2000 to 510 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Gwen and Dick Lindberg after being named Nebraska Journalists of the Year in 1987. The Lindbergs owned Nebraska newspapers for 36 years, each publishing a column every week for those 36 years. Courtesy photo

That loss of connection and information can harm communities, she said. 

“It unites the community. It’s a place where their story can be told,” Lindberg said. “The more you know about another person, that’s a strong thing.” 

In a small town, it’s easy to keep up with all the movements, her son Mike said. Who’s getting married, where grandkids have gone to college, who’s opened up a new business. The local paper is a part of that, he said. 

Lindberg’s room at the long-term care center can feel rootless, like she could be anywhere. It can feel lonely. 

But every friend that comes to read to her, every hug and chat, every article about marriages, road closures, even deaths, reminds her that she’s still here in West Point. Here in the town she brought the news to, and the town that now brings the news to her.

The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first independent, nonprofit newsroom focused on investigations and feature stories that matter.

By Natalia Alamdari

Natalia Alamdari has worked at newspapers throughout the country. Her reporting has taken her to small town shooting ranges in Missouri, contentious school board meetings in Delaware, and aquariums in Texas. Working at the Flatwater Free Press is a return to Nebraska — in college, she spent a summer interning at the Omaha World-Herald. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and native Texan. When she’s not reporting, you can probably find her baking, petting her cat, or trying out a new crafty hobby.


Beautiful story, wonderful lady – she and Dick were friends of my parents when they had the Sargent Leader. Thank you!

And friends of my parent’s too, Mary Nell (Don and Glennie Peterson). I think Dick, Gwen, and our folks had some wonderful times together.
FFP – thank you so much for capturing the lives of Dick and Gwen as well as her continued passion and friendships.

A lovely story about a remarkable woman and about the role of newspapers in creating community. Thank you, Natalia, for your good work!

What a wonderful surprise to read about the amazing Gwen Lindberg. I worked for Dick and Gwen at the Sargent Leader in 1963, when I was in the 8th grade, throughout my high school years. They both were such a positive influence in my life. Blessings to those in her life who are reading to her.

Such a great article and so well written. I am honored to have been a part of that interview. Gwen Lindberg is a true friend and a wonderful person

Natalia did a great job capturing the essence of Gwen, of small town newspapers and a community that cares. Dick and Gwen were great role models for Nebraska newspaper publishers and Francis and I were fortunate to know them and count them as friends.

Thank you for honoring the contribution the Lindberg’s made to small communities via owning and publishing local newspapers. I love the article’s focus on Gwen’s longevity, courage, tenacity and grit. Also, the sweet way the community is “giving back” to Gwen by taking turns reading the newspaper contents to her, and for caring about her. Though I did not know Gwen personally, I knew Gwen’s Imperial, NE, family very well as Imperial is my hometown. I worked at a small town newspaper, and taught journalism students, for many years. I am concerned and saddened by the fact that small newspapers are disappearing rapidly. This is not only a loss for the communities, but for the health of our democracy as well. Thankfully, we have independent/free newspapers like “Flatwater Free Press”. Keep up the good work!

My parents, Loral and Elna Johnson, owned The Imperial Republican and were good friends of the Lindbergs — such great people. Dick Lindberg’s parents owned The Holyoke Enterprise in Holyoke, CO, a paper that was purchased by the Johnsons in 1977, for which I served as editor, then publisher and eventually co-owner from 1979 to my retirement in 2021. This is such a great story about how community members are taking part in sharing the news in Imperial and West Point with Gwen. Wonderful story that I loved.

Great story. I knew the Lindbergs when I lived in West Point from 1986-90. Working fir St. Joseph’s Retirement Community, I felt very comfortable working with the West Point News, Dick and Gwen to get the story out about the changes taking place at St. Joe’s in the late 80’s. I also had a newspaper background and totally understand how printer’s ink runs through the bloodstream. Yep, a lot of changes have taken place with newspapers, not all them positive. Small town news that focuses on local events can still be relevant.



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