Editorial: Let Your Light Shine

By: Nu Yang

This month we recognize 10 Newspapers That Do It Right. Our annual feature story shines a spotlight on papers from around the world implementing bold and innovative strategies in newsrooms and with their business models. We asked for successful, proven ideas, and we asked for ideas that are currently being experimented on—and we heard from plenty of newspapers (from Norway to Holton, Kan.) eager to share their stories, and we thank you for sending them to us.

We read about newsrooms that aren’t afraid to use their storytelling skills to report on injustices. We read about sales teams that are aggressively targeting their markets because they know they have the best reach and platforms. We read about the technological advantages taking place at traditional legacy media companies, and we read about companies exploring new ways to grow print.

But you can see for yourself. You’ll hear about the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla. and their commitment to telling the diverse, compelling stories found in their neighborhoods; you’ll read about the San Francisco Chronicle’s incubator program, the newsroom’s response to going digital first; and check out how the Austin American-Statesman saw a substantial increase with their digital subscriber engagement after creating new roles focused on audience and content. You might even learn a thing or two from the McDuffie Progress’s mascot, McDuffie the Newshound.

The 10 papers on this year’s list (and the ones who received an honorable mention shout-out) are just a small collection of papers doing it right. Each one is a strong example of how the industry continues to evolve into something new and exciting. I hope the story will not only inspire us who are rooting for the industry to succeed, but also prove to the naysayers that papers—big and small—are determined to bring their best game to the playing field.

At the same time we were reading these empowering stories from newspapers, we learned about the terrorist attacks at the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead, including the paper’s editor-in-chief and some of their top cartoonists. The amazing thing was watching how the entire world responded. Immediately, #JeSuisCharlie spread on social media and became a sort of battle cry. Cartoonists responded to the attack of their colleagues with pen and paper. What I remember from those first few days in January were images of crowds gathered together, thousands of people holding pencils in the air: a symbol of unity as they stood up for the freedom of speech and press.

But the attack didn’t silence the remaining members of the Charlie Hebdo staff. No, they went right back to work. According to reports, 5 million copies of the new issue were printed the week after the attack (usually 60,000 copies are printed), and it was translated into six languages and distributed internationally for the first time. As a result, copies from Chicago to Paris sold out.

To me, it showed that despite this horrible tragedy that occurred, the light at Charlie Hebdo couldn’t be extinguished. It also reminded me that it’s during these dark times we need our light to shine the brightest. 

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Published: March 6, 2015

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