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215 chapter nine Crafting a New Beginning for Newspapers Our journeys are often punctuated by insights or “epiphanies” that prompt us to change course and explore a route not previously envisioned. Sometimes , the terrain becomes so difficult that we are forced to detour. Other times, we gradually realize that the path we set out on is not the one that will get us to the destination we’d hoped. All of the owners, publishers, and editors of community newspapers profiled in this book have experienced that insightful moment when they realized that the world as they knew it had changed irrevocably—and that they must set out on a different course. The paths they have chosen reflect the specific challenges and opportunities of the communities they serve. The Chicago Spanish-language weekly La Raza is aggressively pursuing multiplatform delivery of its journalism and advertising. Small-town editor Sallie See in West Virginia is using her strong presence on Facebook to enhance both the news coverage and the marketing capabilities of the weekly Hampshire Review. Others, such as The Pilot in an upscale North Carolina resort and retirement community and the Columbia Daily Herald in an economically depressed area of Tennessee, are seeking to diversify, launching a broad range of print and digital publications and business extensions, including in-house ad agencies and the purchase of a local bookstore. All have acknowledged that they must aggressively change their business models to reflect the new realities—simultaneously reducing costs associated with the legacy print edition, building vibrant community across multiple platforms, and strategically pursuing the new revenue opportunities this affords them. As the experiences of the Whiteville News Reporter illustrate, the path we envision at the beginning of a journey is never straightforward. Four years into the journey, it is still too early to know exactly where the new path will lead for Whiteville—and for the other newspapers who have committed to it. Some may evolve from print-only to pure digital delivery. For the foreseeable the new world order 216 future, most papers will likely commit to multiplatform delivery, with print as a diminished, but key, element. As Whiteville’s Stuart High, special projects director for the News Reporter, puts it: “We are learning as we go.” Most community newspapers have moved out of the denial stage that framed many responses during the first decade of dealing with the Internet . In learning a new way of operating, all the newspapers are opening themselves up to the possibility of crafting a new beginning for themselves in the twenty-first century. A Story Based on Three Epiphanies In The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life (2002), conductor Benjamin Zander points out that “our senses bring us selective information about what is out there” and then we construct—or invent— our own story about what it means. In my own professional journey— from newspaper journalist to publishing executive to professor—there have been three “aha” moments, which occurred roughly a decade apart and build chronologically and logically on one another. Two occurred before the dawn of the Internet age. But if anything, they are even more relevant in the digital age. These insights are the story behind this book, and they form, I hope, a call to action for owners, publishers, and editors and will inspire a recommitment to the important and historic mission of community newspapers everywhere. epiphany 1: Healthy community newspapers support both our democratic and capitalist way of life at the most basic level— in our villages, towns, city blocks, and counties where we work, play, spend our incomes, and elect our public officials. The seed for this book was planted in the summer of 1969, when, as a freshly minted high school graduate whose sole journalistic experience consisted of editing the school newspaper, I was hired as a reporting intern on my hometown paper. Every weekday at about 10:30 a.m., John Henry Moore, the second-generation owner and editor of the twice-weekly, independent Laurinburg (N.C.) Exchange (circulation 10,000), would rise from his desk and amble two blocks downtown to the café on Main Street for a cup of coffee with town merchants and leaders. Moore would return an hour later with a couple of “tips” for the advertising director, a handful of story ideas for all three of the full-time Crafting a New Beginning for Newspapers 217 reporters, plus enough two- and three-paragraph short items to fill his “Odds and...


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