In an unprecedented year of chaos in many areas, journalists find themselves figuring out where they fit in and what’s the next move. This week is National Newspaper Week and for the first time in my career as a journalist, I find myself not enjoying it as much as I used to at times. I believe in it and meet a lot of great people which really make it worthwhile. It’s just people don’t like the truth these days, especially politicians and they are too vocal about criticism.
Things are constantly changing and staying ahead of social media can be challenging. Criticism can be good as long as it’s constructive but when it becomes vengeful or hateful, that’s a totally different animal.
The pandemic definitely hurt many businesses and closed some as well. It’s no different for your local newspaper. We have struggled as we’ve worked this whole time to cover governmental meetings in the age of zoom and other platforms for meetings. Advertising revenue dropped drastically and by the grace of God, we have survived and revenues have started to pick up.
As the publisher of a small community newspaper for years, I learned how to do more with less a long time ago. Budgets for us have always been small and sometimes barely legible. There are times you even fork out some of your own money for certain things just to get by that week.
Gratefully, we picked up several new print subscribers — thank you — and our website has added many more.
As the world changes drastically, it is even more important to protect and help local newspapers survive. More than 35 years ago, I sat in a seminar at UGA listening to a speaker talk about the future of newspaper. His talk was grim and his prediction was newspapers would be gone in 25 years or less. He was wrong and I thought so at the time as well. But I cannot predict another 25 years for the industry from today, that’s for sure.
We need journalists, especially in our local communities. And us journalists need the support of our communities more than ever.
If we lose our community newspaper, we risk losing our democracy. We try to hold our local officials accountable and act as the public’s watchdog for their tax money.
We do not ask for accolades and it’s a good thing because they are few and far between but we do appreciate the pat on the back when it comes.
We don’t create the news, we report it and sometimes when it shows someone or something in a negative light, the people involved don’t like it. We had such a case recently but we know you can’t please everyone all the time. While we like good news too, it’s not always good.
We received many visits and phone calls thanking us for trying to expose what was going on. We were told many things we cannot verify but are keeping it all in mind. It is a sad fact that no one wanted to put their name to a letter, however, to show support. It’s okay though, we get it though we put our names out there every week, that’s our job.
We strive to be as accurate as possible and yes, sometimes we do make mistakes and will admit and correct it, when it is an actual mistake we apologize.
With only one full time employee and two part-time, each of us has to be multi-talented and learn to do more things at once. We can’t always do a lot of investigative reporting because of the time involved but when truly important, we work at it. We are currently working on investigating one entity in our community but it is slow go.
People tell us things we can’t publish without checking it out first and verifying. It is always not possible to verify but people don’t seem to understand we have to be responsible in our reporting. We learn many things people tell us “off the record” which means we can’t report unless we find another way to do so without acknowledging the source who did not want to be named.
These days newspapers are under siege thanks to social media and other platforms that have wreaked havoc on the industry. With all that’s happening in the world, businesses who are struggling fail to see the importance of advertising to increase business at times.
We rely on our community and our readers and advertisers to keep us up to date on what’s happening as we can’t be everywhere.
Local newspaper do not have time for frivolity like fake news. Even if we did have time, we would not participate. Mainstream news media has given us all a negative connotation which is not deserved by weekly newspapers.
Discussion pages pop up on social media continually and while every now and then they may provide something interesting about an event, etc. most of the discussion is complaints about one thing or another. Many times it is an issue which the person could have resolved easily by making a phone call to the proper authority or entity they are trashing. That is not what a newspaper is about.
As a community newspaper we are committed to our community and to keep striving to do the best we can and fighting for our citizens when necessary. All we ask is that you keep supporting us by reading and subscribing.
This past week we produced our first magazine, Hometown Heroes. We always do a special section for first responders and this year decided to do it in magazine format. We are proud of how it turned out. Is it perfect, no, but for our first attempt, it’s pretty darn good. It’s only a small way we can salute and say thank you to these people who put their lives on the line every day. We tried to include essential workers as well.
We are constantly trying to do things for our community and special sections that highlight our advertisers as well as our community and help us stay afloat. We cannot do any of this without our community — our readers, our subscribers and our advertisers. We are after all a business as well and as such need revenues to continue.
Many communities have lost their local newspaper and if you asked them about it afterward, they express regret that it’s gone.
Next year The Georgia Post will be 100 years old. It’s quite an accomplishment for the printed media. It’s a milestone I am looking forward to celebrating and hope you will join us in that celebration. We are currently looking at sometime in April, depending on how things are going.
I’d just like to thank Kristi, Katelyn and Robby, but also all of you who support us in any way. It is very much appreciated much more than you know. ©2020
VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org