The Little Paper With Full Color

By: Jim Rosenberg

In the 19th century, Scottish-born U.S. industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded, with a local butcher, the Express & Star in Wolverhampton, England. In the 21st century, former Express & Star carrier Sam Bassi paired with a local builder to revive a 19th-century U.S. weekly. “The Express & Star inspired me to do The Greensboro Patriot, in a way,” said the latter’s 25-year-old editor and publisher.

Unlike the English regional daily (E&P, Sept. 26, 1992), all pages in the North Carolina weekly carry only four-color photos and ads. “We haven’t lost a single advertiser because of that,” Bassi said. The same will be true for liner ads. “We’re going to revolutionize classified,” he said, with mandatory full color wherever photos accompany ads, among other elements.

While in Florida working on book projects, Bassi searched for a Southeastern paper to realize his vision of a local broadsheet. After project contact Phil Thomas suggested his own Guilford County, the two bought the Patriot‘s goodwill from the man who last published it (as a farm paper), in 1950, and set up Patriot Publishing Co., with Thomas as CEO.

Expecting 5,000 circulation and five staffers, the company on Nov. 11 distributed 25,000 prototype copies produced by a staff of 10. From an ad placed in the city’s News & Record, it recently added an experienced reporter and a sportswriter. Already aboard were a county native and former Hachette Fillipachi executive as associate editor, a 25-year news veteran as managing editor, and a young sports editor.

Staffers drove down to see their first edition printed at The Fayetteville Observer. The state’s oldest paper (founded 1816), the Observer announced the original Patriot‘s launch 177 years ago. When Bassi discovered the quality of Fayetteville Publishing Co.’s commercial work, he said, “That was just another drawing point for us.”

Though he was “thinking small” at first, Bassi said, “I firmly believe we’ll be at 100,000 circulation” a year from now. “My dream is to take it daily.” But Fayetteville is two hours away. So, “at that point, we’ll have our own presses, for sure.”

Meanwhile, Fayetteville prints the Patriot with 100-line screens on 3-year-old, KBA Colora towers.

Refusing any black-and-white photos, the Patriot seems unique among the few papers with color on every page. Still, it runs 38 pages a week, not 72 a day, and Fayetteville’s six-pack of tall boys can be expected to print 48 full-color pages without breaking a sweat.

Writers e-mail Microsoft Word files from PCs to editors who paginate on Macs in QuarkXPress. A sports reporter shoots film in a Canon camera; all others (including ad reps) use Sony digital cameras. Images are edited in Adobe Photoshop. Pages are distilled into portable document format and sent to an FTP server used by Fayetteville.

Besides the main, community, and sports sections, 11,000 copies went out with “The Northwest Guilford News,” focusing on three towns to the northwest. The paper reported that Greensboro’s northwest area “represents a disproportionate share of its wealth and growth.” There, said Bassi: “Every single household received a copy in the mail.” But until fully supported by ads, the “News” will remain an eight-page section “on top of the Patriot,” he said, adding it will “eventually … become a separate newspaper.”

The former carrier who finds mail too costly said, “I’m keen to bring back the paperboy, papergirl.”

Against the 90,432-circulation News & Record — “a giant,” he said, full of wire copy, with Greensboro “not even … in the name” — Bassi promised “names, names, names” in local news and pictures.

“I would put our local news coverage up against anyone I’m aware of,” responded News & Record President and Publisher Van King, who cited local news daily throughout his paper and a locally zoned, 60-page, Sunday tab section with 60,000 in-county circulation.

“I wish them well,” King said. “This is a very competitive market.”

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