As I listen to the July 4 fireworks outside my window, my thoughts revolve around the newspaper colleagues I’ve met over the past few weeks and the lessons I’ve learned. Having finished several major redesign projects in June, I’ve recently traveled to speak at several newspaper conventions and visit some newspapers on-site.
In Alabama, I spoke about my vision for newspapers. I told stories of things I’ve seen in the past that had both negative and positive effects on our industry. I shared about newspapers that are growing, as well as newspaper colleagues who are starting new papers across the U.S. Following my presentation, I visited with several publishers individually to discuss their papers. My enthusiasm about the state of our industry was once again renewed while visiting with Tommy and Dee Ann Campbell.
Just three years ago, Tommy left his publisher’s position in Tennessee after he and Dee Ann purchased the Linden, Alabama, newspaper. The circulation had fallen to 133. While Dee Ann continued to serve as publisher of the newspaper in Gilbertown, Alabama, Tommy took over as publisher of the Linden newspaper, newly named “The Leader.” Today, The Leader has more than 1,500 subscribers.
In Kansas, I was able to visit with my friend Joey Young. I’ve written about Joey and the success he, Lindsey Young, and their team have enjoyed several times in previous columns. While in Wichita, I sat in while Teri Finneman interviewed Joey and Lindsey about new things they’ve initiated over the past year at their newspapers.
Once, several years ago, Joey asked me why I was working so hard to make him famous. I explained that I wasn’t doing anything to make him famous. I just liked telling my newspaper friends about this young man in his late 20s and the success he and his wife had found beginning new newspapers in Kansas. A few years have passed, and I still beam with pride when I see Joey and Lindsey speaking in front of audiences at newspaper conventions. Joey didn’t need me to make him famous. The work he and Lindsey were doing spoke for itself.
If you are a regular reader of my column, you’ve heard me mention Dale Gentry and his staff at the Jefferson City (Tennessee) Standard Banner several times. Dale and his team continue to make improvements at their ever-growing newspaper, discovering new ways to meet the demands of their readers. I love the newspapers Dale’s staff publishes for each school in the area. Stories written by the students are featured in these papers, printed on broadsheets, distributed to the schools, and inserted into The Standard Banner. Is it any wonder that after 96 years, The Standard Banner continues to grow?
Having just finished several months of work with Dale’s staff, we’ll soon focus on creating a new publication. Like other growing newspapers, The Standard Banner has learned that cutting to grow doesn’t work. Investing in future growth does.
While preparing to speak in Alabama, I contacted North Dakota publisher Jill Friesz to ask how things were going with her ever-growing group of community papers in North Dakota. It seems that Jill has been quite successful at creating new papers – or reviving former papers – in communities where newspapers have been closed. I was thrilled to hear things were going great at her papers, not just because that allowed me to include her example in my Alabama keynote. I was also excited to hear that Jill has recently revived another community paper in the state.
I plan to take some time to relax, maybe two or three days, before jumping into several redesigns in July and August. I’ll also visit on-site with a few newspapers from Knoxville to Chicago. I may sound like a broken record, but I don’t make this stuff up. I run into healthy, growing community papers everywhere I look and wherever I go. That’s one reason I love working with newspapers so much.