A third of the people take the newspaper because of the ads I was told when beginning as a publisher. People get the flyers and plan their grocery shopping. When the rummage sales come out, rummagers map out their route. Classifieds represented a community exchange. Some took the car ads and purchased a specific car, with the advertised set of features at the advertised price. Big box retailers tracked sales results to advertised items in flyers placed in the newspaper. On Thanksgiving Day, family rituals included going through Black Friday sales to prepare which deals to pursue. The ads, though, just tell part of the story. Local news is the foundation of community journalism.
There were varied ways to use the newspaper. Some like sports, others the comics. Many looked at the obituaries daily. The news report covered tastes from city council and school board coverage to learning who was engaged, who was married, divorced and what couples were celebrating a milestone anniversary. There were calendars, human interest features and court news.
For this service, most families paid to have the newspaper delivered to their home. Others paid to pick up the newspaper at a convenience store, a grocery store or other convenient location. That people paid to invite the newspaper into their home, as opposed to receiving an unsolicited item in the mail, increased the value. The result made newspapers profitable and valued.
In recent weeks, I’ve been appreciating efforts to re-energize community journalism with a new newspaper in one regional market. The focus is on a varied news report that is relevant, interesting, informing, challenging, surprising. It is meaningful and worthwhile. The Springfield, MO Daily Citizen is a breath of fresh air.
Just weeks old, the Daily Citizen produces a varied news report, an account of people, happenings, trends. Even though Springfield’s a couple hundred miles away, it’s fun to follow this web site. I’ve invited this online newspaper generated by paid reporters who live in the Springfield area into my email inbox. I look forward to it.
The startup is a result of a group of community leaders hiring David Stoeffler, former editor of the Springfield News-Leader, to build a team and lead the effort focused on local news. Stoeffler was vice president of news at Lee Enteprises when Lee purchased the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier along with other newspapers in the Howard newspaper group. We became acquaintances when he made a visit to Coles County shortly after the Lee acquisition in 2002. From a distance, I’ve followed his career. When he left Springfield and the daily news business in 2014, he returned to La Crosse, WI to run a nonprofit education foundation. He has written favorably about the opportunity to return to Springfield and his news roots. I haven’t seen his five-year plan, but the initial launch seems solid.
While they have a Facebook page, it is appropriately secondary. The news report revolves around the Citizen’s web site, which is where you go to see the width and breadth of the report. You can subscribe to a newsletter that highlights each day’s report. It arrives in your mailbox at about the same time each morning, delivering consistency to which people once were accustomed. I think paid subscriptions will need to be a key element of sustainability, along with the sponsorships, grants and partnerships that fueled the launch. It is one of the more interesting and a potentially sustainable approach to retaining a community news source. My best wishes are with this effort.