A New Perspective 12-08-2004: News Business

Golden Gate Gazette

December 8, 2004

As my wife or I go about town we often hear people say, “Oh, I just love that little paper.” We hear other comments about how much they liked a column, or they are really glad we are there or that story wouldn’t have happened.
Usually, the good comments are from newer people to the area. They either appreciate the small hometown feel, or it reminds them of something like they had back home.
The folks that have been around a while are used to the paper, like to grump and growl about it, and take it for granted and even fight the newspaper, rather than cooperate or support it to make it even better. Some even despise it and do everything they can to harm the paper, not realizing the value a sounding board that communicates that community’s story.
Just talk to anyone who has lived in an area where they lost their hometown newspaper and you’ll see it was the start of the demise of the downward spiral of the community.
Sometimes we’ll overhear someone in discussion in another community say something extra complimentary such as “my newspaper.” To those folks we’ve reached the core of what a community newspaper is all about.
That’s what we do – we build a relationship with the community. It’s like a marriage. Readers love us when we write about their good deeds, but despise us when we write about the warts in the community. The relationship endures.
One unusual comment I heard someone say once was, “it’s so quaint.” Of course, in my own mind, I was thinking, why not “provocative,” or “thought provoking,” “insightful,” or some other word to bring added value to the paper?
Most business trends are to be “cool.” I guess community newspapers don’t get to fall into that realm because we are more like the old favorite quilt, rather than a high-tech solar warming mantel.
People move into our area because they are searching for something. It may be a place, a lifestyle, or a dream they haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
This week, I read a columnist, who spoke about community newspapers as a vehicle to find that “place” in a person’s life. As a newspaper, we attempt to address and provide that “place” in the lives of our readers. We create “place” out of chaos and frame the issues that are important to a community.
The newspaper business is changing rapidly, with more photography, more color, and better graphics. The Internet is creating a new method of telling a community story.
Yet, our printed newspapers have somehow held onto the part of the core values and traditions, which our community is built on – one person calls it “quaint.”
I’ll take quaint, as long as I know we are giving the readers something personal – something they can invest in emotionally. That thing that lets them know they have found that “place” they have been looking for. The best description we could ask for, however, is “my newspaper.”