With roots in their communities, newspapers still deliver

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Once every month or so our mailbox holds a copy of the latest Editor & Publisher magazine, the U.S. newspaper industry’s bible that dates back to 1901 and, in my case, to the 1950s when I was a reporter for a couple of L.A.’s big dailies. I’ve skimmed the magazine’s pages for all those years but, admittedly, sometimes overlook it entirely.

This month, however, the cover definitely caught my eye.

In a few words, it summarized its lead story with a headline that read: “With roots in their communities, local newspapers find ways to flourish and prosper.”

By some accounts, people here seem to believe that Wrangler News has flourished since we published our first edition in the early 1990s. I think that’s true. I can’t say we’ve exactly prospered, though, as apparently some (thankfully, I’m sure) have, but because our motive has never been to get rich at this, I’m OK with having been able to pay our rent, pay our freelance writers and photographers, pay our home-delivery people, pay our printer and, of course, pay Joyce and I a stipend for what we do, day in and day out.

It’s being able to do that for almost 30 years that has provided the source of my own greatest personal and professional satisfaction, and similarly Joyce’s, and I hope that doesn’t soon change.

I can’t say our phones ring off the hook with calls from people telling us what a great job we do. But I can say that nearly every encounter we have with people in our community—our neighbors—reinforces our confidence that what we’re doing is enjoyed, appreciated and looked forward to.

While we can’t always delve as deeply as we’d like into the stories behind our stories, we try really hard to help you, our readers, know more about your community and your neighborhoods than you did before.

In fact, it’s what motivates Joyce and me to frequently pause after each deadline and congratulate ourselves on “our best issue ever,” only to sit down the next day and find things we wish we had done better.

Those who worked around our little enterprise in its early days remember me using that “best ever” superlative even then, which I guess suggests our efforts to keep on getting better is destined to go on indefinitely.

Which brings me back once again to E&P’s lead article, which says that, even though we think sometimes we’re the only little hometown paper in the country sticking to the notion of small-town journalism, there are (again, thankfully) others doing the same, to wit:

  • There are 92 daily newspapers in this country that have been owned for more than 100 years, most of them family owned;
  • The quirks of small newspapers not only avoid the sameness of some corporately owned publications but also give people the sense that their paper is by and for members of their community;
  • The desire for communities to know themselves is universal, and consequently what fuels micro-sized publications that can step into that niche and provide that service;
  • Decisions about what stories to write and how to play them in Wrangler News are made across the room by two people, not by large corporations whose staffs and offices can be hundreds of miles apart; and
  • Finally, that many of the young people who have graced our offices with their presence have built a foundation for their future right here in our microcosm of homegrown journalistic niche-dom. Hopefully, of course, with training of which they, and we, can be proud.

So maybe it’s true, as E&P tells us, community newspapers are flourishing and prospering after all.

 

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