By: Ed Zintel
Amazing is one word I’d use to describe it. Inspiring would be another.
That’s just two of the reactions I had when looking over the nominations we received this year for E&P’s 10 Newspapers That Do It Right. Just the amount of thought put into the nominations by those of you who did was enough to make me proud to be a part of this industry.
From the tiny weeklies such as the McKenzie River Reflections in Colorado (circ. 800), to the big metropolitan dailies, such as the New York Times (circ. 1.5 million), every nominee was impressive in its own way.
Of course, we’re always asked how we select which newspapers make the final list. Actually, a lot goes into the selection process. We look at the nominations for such things as circulation growth, increased advertising sales, revenue achieved through new channels, and digital products that do more than repurpose old content on new platforms. But, much more than that, we look for ideas and strategies that are unique and creative whether they bring in revenue or not and regardless of newspaper size.
And so many of the nominations we receive convey that resourcefulness with which newspapers have always used to stay relevant and causative to the readers they serve.
Take, for example, the El Paso Times. The paper played a critical watchdog role over the past two years in identifying and fixing deep problems in the El Paso Independent School District. The Times identified one of the nation’s worst school-cheating scandals in a year-long investigation. And when the school district and state education agency became paralyzed in trying to deal with the fallout, the Times used its editorial pages to map out a reform plan that was largely adopted by state and local leadership. You can see two years of coverage of this issue at www.elpasotimes.com/episd.
Other newspapers demonstrate they value the historical significance of their communities. The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill. has published continuously for 183 years, making it the state’s oldest newspaper. In 2013, it created a project known as Flashback Springfield. Included was a collaboration with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project in which the paper printed never-before-published letters to Lincoln.
Last year seemed to be the Year of the Event for many newspapers looking to add revenue and market themselves in new and bigger ways. Whether it’s a bridal expo, a book fair, a kids expo, a Christmas crafts show or jazz music weekend, an event can generate revenue, and, just as importantly, events create experiences that leave lasting impressions in the minds of readers, advertisers and the community.
But what I’m always so impressed with is the never-give-up attitude among newspaper folks. For example, Keith Foutz, who, together with his brother, Fred, bought The Early Bird weekly in Greenville, Ohio in 2012, told me about the patience it took before he was finally able to land the purchase.
“I pestered the owner for about a dozen years, writing her Christmas cards every year with a note that said, ‘Let me know if you ever consider selling the paper,’ ” Foutz said. “Finally, I received a reply from her after my 2011 Christmas card, saying, ‘Maybe it’s time we talked.’ ”
And the rest, as they say, is history. This year, The Early Bird was named one of the 10 Newspapers That Do It Right.