Thursday, October 8, 2009
Community newspapers focus on people
I love being a community newspaper publisher.
Everything we do revolves around promoting, building and supporting a sense of community. The idea is to create a sense of uniqueness, a sense of belonging.
In a world of standardization and anonymity, it is a great privilege to be actively working against these depressing forces day to day.
Think about it. So much of our world has become the same. Drive down any business strip in any city throughout America and you will see the same chain restaurants and the same chain stores.
Our focus on efficiency and predictability has led to standardization. In many ways, this has robbed communities of our individuality.
Many of our businesses are indeed cookie-cutter clones, but the people inside are completely unique. No two people are the same. Not by a long shot.
That’s why community newspapers focus on people. Each community consists of its own unique individuals found nowhere else. By focusing on people, we can highlight the individuality of each community.
Most of our advertisers are locally owned. They are connected to their community in a way that out-of-town businesses are not. They understand the important role the paper plays in the community. That’s why they give us the honor of using our publication to put forth their image.
The more connected you are to your community, the more meaning your community newspaper has to your life. We have thousands of readers who read our papers word for word. They watch hundreds of children grow up on the pages of our newspapers — from birth announcement, to kindergarten photo, to baseball championship, to college honors, to marriage and to parenthood.
It gives me great joy that I can make a livelihood supporting and building up communities. What a nice calling!
We certainly try to cover hard news. Hard news is important to the community. People want to know about crime, taxes and potholes. But that is just one aspect of a community.
We embrace and support all things that make our communities unique. We are a key instrument to help advance what some people call the “Small-Mart” community — a community where people support unique shops and stores with unique products, where a community has individuality, where money gets recirculated in the local economy, where technology allows the Davids of the world to compete against the Goliaths like Wal-Mart. It’s really happening.
It used to be size mattered. Only the big companies could afford the satellite networks that supported just-in-time inventory control and low prices. No more. The Internet has given even the smallest business equal footing. The world is changing away from big and uniform back to small and unique.
It’s a great vision and local community papers are here to advance it.
We try to report on the totality of life in all its aspects, not just blood and gore or bad news. When you read our paper, you should feel upbeat and positive because life is good and your community is one of the best places on Earth to live.
Technology has allowed us to get our readers involved in supplying content. Did your girl’s softball team just win the tournament? Snap a photo with your digital camera and email it to us. Presto! It’s in the paper. You’ve never seen a smile so big as a child when they see their picture in the paper for having accomplished something.
I’m amazed at how many people don’t take advantage of their community paper. We are here to help publicize and promote goings on in the community. Our motto is: You write it. We’ll run it.
Of course, we have to pay the bills. We can’t offer what amounts to free advertising. But there are many events and happenings that can get in the paper for free if someone takes the time to send the information and photos to us.
I have to laugh when someone asks me to assign one of our investigative reporters to look into some potential scandal. I chuckle to myself: “Right, now let me see which one of my team of crack investigative reporters is free at the moment.”
Alas, making a buck is tough and that’s especially true with the ad business. Readers would be amazed if they realized how lean and mean we are. Like everybody else, we’ve had to learn to do more with less, using every bit of technology and efficiency at our disposal.
At the end of the week, I love reading my community paper on my sun porch with a good cup of coffee. I am proud of the work we do. Our printing is light-years ahead of where it was a decade ago. Our product is unique, containing information available nowhere else. Reading a community newspaper makes me feel happy about the world. So many healthy, young people out achieving and advancing. So much future and promise.
That’s the world of community newspapers. It’s a world I’m lucky to be part of.
Editor’s Note: Wyatt Emmerich is publisher of The Northside Sun in Jackson and president of Emmerich Newspapers Inc.
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