Young Guys Buy Indiana Paper, Bring It Into Twitter Era

By: The small community of Waynedale is known as much for its institutions as anything, businesses that have endured for generations through tough economic times like these.

Ornate wedding cakes brighten the window in the 54-year-old Waynedale Bakery's brick facade, in stark contrast to the empty blackness beyond the "for rent" sign next door.

Down the street, two young entrepreneurs sound like Waynedale's staunchest supporters of tradition even as they describe ways they plan to modernize their decidedly 20th-century purchase: Waynedale's community newspaper, established in 1932.

Alex Cornwell and Michael Alberico, both 22, are the new co-owners of The Waynedale News, a twice-monthly newspaper focused on the five-square-mile community of Waynedale.

"News is transitioning to social entities," Cornwell said. "But I still think on a local level, people turn to our paper to see what's going on."

They declined to say how much they paid for the newspaper but said they believe it was a fair market price based on their research.

Waynedale was founded in 1921 and annexed in 1957, but the neighborhood on Fort Wayne's southwest side has retained its sense of identity.

Among its institutions is the newspaper, its issues delivered to thousands of doorsteps and displayed in stacks at local businesses. Its tech-savvy owners ? Cornwell owns a Web-design firm ? are eager to update the newspaper's Web site, but they also plan to bring back features readers have come to expect.

The current issue and archives will be online, and the newspaper will have an RSS feed and a Twitter page. Cornwell even wants to make the Web site accessible to visually impaired people.

"It's just a good opportunity now in this transition to make small changes," he said. "I think you have to be progressive."

The bulk of the paper's content comes from the community, and the co-owners hope to engage more local high school students to submit content.

But they're careful not to be too progressive. Buying a newspaper in 2009 didn't feel incongruous to them because of the newspaper's loyal readership, which the owners describe as readers in the "55-plus" demographic.

"If it was struggling, I think the people would support it, and they have been," Cornwell said. "They really do expect it."

More than 10,000 papers are delivered door-to-door every issue and distributed around the area.
Alberico was fascinated by the history found in the one-room office, especially the copies of old newspapers, some dating to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Several of the most interesting copies were sent off to be framed and soon will decorate the office's white-paneled walls, he said.

That observance of history was evident in Wednesday's newspaper ? Volume 77, Issue 17 of The Waynedale News ? the first the new owners produced. The redesigned issue included a column from outgoing owner Robert Stark and a timeline of the newspaper's history. It also announced plans to bring back an old feature, a fictional columnist named "Mrs. Wayne Dale."

Although Cornwell grew up in Wisconsin, his Waynedale roots run deep. His mother, Cynthia Cornwell, has worked for the newspaper for about a decade and shared her love of the paper with her son. He moved to Fort Wayne to attend the University of Saint Francis, where he graduated in May.

Cornwell began working for the newspaper about four years ago as a graphic designer.

Alberico, a Bishop Luers High School graduate, will graduate from Saint Francis in December. He and Cornwell met at the university, where their plan to buy the newspaper hatched.

"It's been neat," Alberico said. "You get to work with a guy who's not only your friend, but you really trust."
So far, their changes have been subtle but noticeable in the neighborhood.
Herman Schroeder, 70, who was sipping coffee Wednesday afternoon at the Waynedale Bakery, said he has lived about 25 years in Waynedale.

The neighborhood paper's most recent issue caught his eye because of the updated layout and revived familiar features.

"I maybe read more in there than I have for a while," he said. "Mrs. Wayne Dale. That's what I like to read."


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