Kevin an­swers reader’s ques­tion: “Who is do­ing things right?”

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contributer - Kevin Slimp The News Guru sta­te­ofnews­pa­

Over the past week or so, I re­ceived an email from a pub­lisher ask­ing if I could send ex­am­ples of com­mu­nity news­pa­pers who are do­ing things right. His plan was to con­tact these pub­lish­ers to learn if he could ben­e­fit from their ex­pe­ri­ences. I told him I would give it some thought and send him a list of papers and con­tacts, but now I can’t seem to find his mes­sage hid­den in the thou­sands of emails that have fi lled my in-box in the days since his mes­sage ar­rived.

I could have in­cluded papers I’ve vis­ited over the past year in Kansas, Ne­braska, Ari­zona and other places, but I de­cided five was all that would fit in this space, so here is my 2018 “Do­ing things right” list.

The Glouces­ter-Mathews Gazette-Jour­nal

When Elsa Ver­byla in­vited me to visit her news­pa­per on the shores of East­ern Vir­ginia, I wasn’t sure what to ex­pect. After ar­riv­ing, I was most sur­prised by the ac­cents of the good folks of Mathews, a town just down the road from Glouces­ter. But that’s an­other story for an­other day.

My sec­ond big­gest sur­prise was meet­ing with the staff of the Gazette-Jour­nal and learn­ing first-hand how much they love their news­pa­per. I spent two days with the group dis­cussing ev­ery­thing from sales to cir­cu­la­tion to de­sign. I learned about great ideas they’ve had to in­crease cir­cu­la­tion and main­tain reader- ship in an area like many, where a big- city daily threat­ens to ab­sorb their read­ers.

No worry, though. The folks of Glouces­ter and Mathews, I learned, love their news­pa­per. Like many of the most suc­cess­ful papers I run across, so do the staff mem­bers. As I vis­ited with them, it was hard to find one who had been around less than 10 years.

“Oh, I’ve been here 20 years,” one told me. An­other, “15 years and count­ing.”

With mul­ti­ple sec­tions, plenty of ad­ver­tis­ing, and no short­age of sto­ries, it’s no won­der The Glouces­ter-Mathews Gazette-Jour­nal makes my list.

Madelia Times Mes­sen­ger

The first time Michelle Van Hee in­vited me to visit her paper in Madelia, I had to get out a map. In all my trav­els across Min­nesota, I didn’t re­mem­ber Madelia. Now, it’s a reg­u­lar stop for me. After three trips to visit The Madelia Times Mes­sen­ger, it makes my list of my fa­vorite news­pa­pers.

One of the best ex­am­ples of the Mes­sen­ger’s spirit is their lead­er­ship fol­low­ing a fire that de­stroyed much of their down­town in 2017. When I last vis­ited her town, Michelle couldn’t wait to show me the ren­o­va­tion of the down­town area.

What makes Madelia’s paper spe­cial? I could cre­ate a long list, and it would be­gin with gen­uine care for the com­mu­nity. Ev­ery­thing is lo­cal. Sto­ries are lo­cal. Ad­ver­tis­ing is lo­cal. Own­er­ship is lo­cal.

Michelle cares about her prod­uct, and it shows. She has folks like Ed Hen­ninger come in to work on the Mes­sen­ger’s de­sign. I’ve been there sev­eral times. The news­pa­per is part of her fam­ily, and she cares for it that way.

I wasn’t sur­prised when I looked at their web­site that Michelle and her staff now pub­lish five news­pa­pers in the area. I re­mem­ber when there was only one.

The Stan­dard Ban­ner, Je er­son City

I’ve been to Jef­fer­son City to work with the staff of The Stan­dard Ban­ner many times through the years, and I’m still sur­prised each time I visit.

When I vis­ited just last week, I asked Dale Gen­try, pub­lisher, “How is busi­ness?”

For some rea­son, I wasn’t sur­prised with his an­swer.

“Busi­ness is great!” he beamed. “Espe­cially the last two months. Things are go­ing re­ally well.”

Why are things “great” in Jef­fer­son City? Just spend a day with the staff of the news­pa­per and you will know.

Like the paper in Glouces­ter, Vir­ginia, staff doesn’t come and go at The Stan­dard Ban­ner. You will find folks who have been on staff for decades. I re­mem­ber meet­ing Kim Cook, de­signer, when she showed up early for my first News­pa­per In­sti­tute in 1997.

I didn’t count the pages, but I bet the page count of twice­weekly paper in Jef­fer­son City ri­vals that of the metro 40 miles away.

The Stan­dard Ban­ner has been on my fa­vorite list for a long time, and isn’t leav­ing any time soon.

Kan­abec Group, Min­nesota

When Wade Weber first in­vited me to visit his paper in Mora, Min­nesota more than a dozen years ago, I had no idea how much I was go­ing to grow to love the folks at his news­pa­pers.

Since then, Wade has added a few name­plates to his col­lec­tion, but each is dis­tinc­tively lo­cal and it shows. Beau­ti­ful de­sign, qual­ity writ­ing, beau­ti­ful print­ing, and lo­cal fo­cus are the hall­marks of the papers in the Kan­abec group.

In a re­cent trip to Cam­bridge, to visit with Wade’s staff there, I was re­minded of the rea­son peo­ple get into com­mu­nity jour­nal­ism in the first place. I saw pride in each face of the 30 or so staff mem­bers as we looked at their sto­ries, pho­tos and pages.

What makes their news­pa­pers stand out? Top­ping the list would be the lo­cal fo­cus and the at­ten­tion to qual­ity.

The Neep­awa Ban­ner & Press

My list couldn’t be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing The Neep­awa Ban­ner & Press in Neep­awa, Man­i­toba. Over the past few years, I’ve come to re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the work Ken Wad­dell and his staff do in Man­i­toba.

I’ve never seen Ken with­out his brown brimmed hat and a smile on his face. His en­thu­si­asm spreads through­out his news­pa­per and it shows.

I’ve met with his staff mul­ti­ple times to look at their papers, dis­cuss strat­egy, and plan new ven­tures. The news­pa­per has great de­sign­ers, editors and writ­ers who care about their com­mu­nity.

Ask Ken about his se­cret, and the an­swer is al­ways the same. “We keep it lo­cal.”

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear from Ken or Kate Jack­son, Ban­ner & Press ed­i­tor, with ideas to dis­cuss.

No won­der read­ers love their paper.

Plenty more out there

It’s never easy com­pris­ing a list like this. There are plenty of other papers, just as wor­thy, that could be in­cluded, but these five should give you a good start.

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