New(ish) year same mission: observe, inform, entertain

By Don Rush

Gosh, we’re into the second week of yet another year, and I just figured out, we have only 50 weeks left to make all of our goals — personal, financial and in business. As I pondered how far I am already behind schedule this year, far above me I heard familiar voices. From somewhere in the universe a booming voice bellowed like rolling thunder.
“Donald,” it summoned, I looked up and a snow flake gently landed on my cheek. “Donald. It is time. You are here to hear of my desire. You are the Chosen One. He who shall speak to my peeps.”
“But,” I interjected humbly, “Will they listen? Didn’t you see any part of the year 2020?”
The commanding voice roared out in annoyance at my doubting, “No buts! Tell them, tell them it all!”
And then, as if under some unearthly command, cumulonimbus clouds converged to obscure my vision. The tempeature rose from negative one degree to 31. No burning bushes, but more snow to shovel. The voice was gone. I was alone in an icy parking lot. Was it up there still up there? Watching me?
Silence of the January cold was all I heard,
“But, you forgot to tell me what it is you wanted me to say, and to whom,” I said meekly, obviously to myself.
What had they said? “My peeps . . .” What did that mean? The people? No. Then, out of nowhere a thought hit me like a giant, wet and sloppy snow ball to the noggin’ — My people, your readers.
So, what message?
My best guess is about a golden rule of community journalism — one we may have gotten away from recently. That rule?
“Thou shalt accept for publication, those announcements from individuals, groups, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas — any interested party. Thou shalt accept said announcements with smiling faces and plenty of thank yous — and then follow through and publish said announcements promptly.”
That means we cannot make readers jump through hoops to get information published. Mail it, e-mail it, drop it off, call it in — if you make the effort to furnish us with information it is our job to get it in our community newspaper. (Of course, we reserve the right to correct spelling, etc.)
As editors and reporters for a community newspaper, we need to get out there and pound the pavement, press the flesh and meet new people. We have to hear different points of view. We cannot rely (solely) on one source of information. We cannot rely (solely) on public relations personnel for info from our local forms of government.
Many residents criticize elected officials and administrators of being smug and beyond reproach. Those same folks may think the same of us.
When we get a letter to the editor criticizing us, we have to realize there are other points of view. We need to come to grips with the fact criticisms are not necessarily a bad thing. When readers see spelling errors and let us know, they actually care enough about us to tell us to shape up.
The message seems pretty simple, we need to be open to our readers. We need to get back to the idea everyone in our community has a story, and it is our job to tell it. Before we can tell it, though, we need to get out and talk to the community.
Did you know one of our goals is to get every kid who goes to public school here in our paper at least once before they graduate? Yup, it’s true.
What was the message was I to share? I guess it is to share our commitment to the readers and our community. If you want to see something in the paper, think we should do something better, by all means let us know. You can help us. Keep us on our toes. Be our ears and eyes. And, when you do, send us your phone number so we can call to verify. Send in all your stuff for publication, and then thank the local businesses who advertise, they make it all possible!
An article by Jane Hungarter stated, “. . . Newspapers actively engage audiences who take action as a result of seeing newspaper advertising.”
Here are some of the findings:
86% of readers say newspapers are a great place to get useful information. Local newspapers continue to be the primary source of information about communities in small towns and cities;
78% of readers feel like they are a part of a community of readers. Consumers look forward to reading community newspapers, and rely on them for local news and information. Community newspapers are informative, entertaining, and provide quality news coverage and fair news reporting;
74% of readers usually notice the ads appearing in newspapers. Newspapers are the medium in which advertising makes consumers more likely to purchase, and the most effective place to learn about sales and store information.
And, newspapers are worst at promoting themselves. We go about getting the job done, writing news, selling ads to promote other businesses, but we suck at telling our own story.
Oh, and I am sposed to say, “there is hope.”
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Received this e-mail about last week’s column:
You’re letter to 2021 reminds me of an episode of MASH where the troops had been told months earlier that the war in Korea would be over soon and everyone would be home for Christmas.
Of course that didn’t happen and in a few rare quiet moments on New Year’s Eve Colonel Potter gathered all the personnel together for a toast. ‘Here’s to the new year, may she be a damn sight better than the old one.’
An appropriate quote for our situation today. Regards, Barney Arendsen
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