Editor’s Column: One page at a time

It’s been exactly two years this week since we took ownership of the HT. That’s 104 issues, one every week, produced on deadline, plus special sections and magazines. I’ve had a number of folks say things like, “You signed up for slave labor!” Others have asked, “Why did you voluntarily sign up for that job? It’s never-ending work.”

They’re right. The job is holidays and weekends and late nights and an endless flurry of meetings and events. We knew that going in. But it’s not all on one person. We have a wonderful team working together to keep the newspaper relevant, fresh and alive. That still begs the question, “Why?” We ask ourselves that question every week, sometimes with tears and sometimes with pride.

Newspapers are a challenged industry. Every few years a new chunk of newspaper revenue falls away like a calving glacier in the Arctic.

You don’t have to wait for the paper to come out to see who’s selling something in the classifieds. Craigslist and Facebook yard sale pages took care of that.

You don’t have to wait to see what’s on sale at the local auto store or the special at your favorite restaurant. Free advertising through the chambers’ email list takes care of that.

Having an event? Facebook pages and Twitter feeds provide free outreach for organizations.

Pictures you once had to wait to see in print now appear for free online as local photographers—professionals and amateurs—hungry for exposure, post photos of events.

So with all that free access on social media, why do we even need newspapers anymore? Why do we keep doing what we’re doing?

Because you deserve to know what happens at meetings of your county commissioners and town trustees. You may or may not agree with our reporting, but it is what it is: reporting. We’re not here to opine on their decisions. The county likes to think folks will start watching their videotaped meetings. I’d love to think we’re that invested, but somehow I doubt it.

Because the special districts that spend chunks of our tax dollars should be held accountable for what they do, good, bad or indifferent.

Because our schools and their students deserve to be acknowledged in print for posterity, whether it’s for scholarships or sports accolades.

Because social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is not really our friend, or yours. Social media is a costly tool, strategically harvesting our information while providing a tiny boost of dopamine at a tremendous price. We use it, as do most of you, but we all need to be aware of the cost.

Because it’s still important to have a printed historical record of births and deaths and public notices. Print is permanent, the internet is transient.

How can we make up for all those things that have been absorbed by the internet? First, we need the continued support of local advertisers. Second, we need subscribers, in print and online.

In the year ahead, we’re developing strategic plans and goals to obtain more thorough coverage of various events and activities, and we’re planning future HT-sponsored events to provide opportunities for education and entertainment.

Covering the fires this summer prompted us to purchase some audio/video equipment to better cover public meetings and conduct interviews. We’ll be adding more audio and video to our website and, through our augmented reality app, Zappar, directly to the newspaper. With Zappar, we can bring video, audio, photo slideshows and more to the paper. The app is free, and it’s fun to see your newspaper come to life!

In a nutshell, it’s been a tough, but rewarding two years. We’re more convinced than ever about the importance of local journalism, and we’re working to meet our readers’ needs on multiple levels.

So, here’s a huge “thank you” to all of you who are subscribers and regular readers, and to our recurrent advertisers. You are more appreciated than you know!

 

By Niki Turner | niki@theheraldtimes.com