Community Journalism

Out-of-town marketers not as effective as local newspapers

While we uphold a tradition of excellence in news coverage as Grayson County’s oldest newspaper, we are also vested in offering effective marketing and advertising expertise.

As the Internet and social media grow, a new advertising opportunity seems to pop up every day.

Small businesses, on limited budgets, can easily be overwhelmed with a rush of information and (in some cases) get taken by out-of-town companies who don’t have their best interest at heart.

Through it all, community newspapers remain the local marketing experts. We are here to help and are passionate about the services we provide.

One example of an out-of-town outfit over-promising and under-delivering is an outfit called Team Sportz Advertising that made calls on local businesses about this time last year.

They promised a full color Whitesboro Bearcat football schedule poster to be littered on walls all over town.

They convinced five local advertisers to subsidize their efforts at the tune of several hundred dollars per ad.

In return, each advertiser was delivered a crude wall hanger that included their five ads and the 2014 football schedule… no local pictures, nothing personalized about it.

Beyond that, the graphic design work could have been done by any fifth grader and the worst part was the advertisers didn’t get their shipment of posters until four weeks into the football season.

So, more than $1,000 left the community in exchange for 25 posters that no one ever saw because they were too ugly and out-of-date to hang in a store front.

Whitesboro athletic director and then-high school principal Rendell Cole both assured me the school was not contacted beforehand and did not have a hand in the process.

I have seen this before, and it is sad. There are countless companies who all operate on the same model. Some are better than others, but I have seen none as bad as the group mentioned above.

Posters are fun and different. I have done plenty of them in my career and would love to do some here.

In 2013, I entered into a partnership with the New Boston (Texas) Athletic Booster Club that yielded three different posters over the course of a school year and resulted in a $2,500 donation to the Booster Club.

We then implemented the same model at Atlanta, Queen City, Linden and Pittsburg (all Texas).

We were able to give local businesses an attractive new marketing option, keep the revenue local and offer the community a collectible piece of art they could be proud of.

I have made similar offers to each of our local booster clubs with limited interest that has yet to materialize.

The point is, once again, the local newspaper is able to be inventive when it comes to local marketing needs.

An even sadder story occurred this winter when a few downtown businesses were taken by a con artist supposedly selling ads on restaurant menus.

At least in the poster case the company delivered a product. The menu crook did not.

Local business owners said a salesman blew in from the metroplex selling ads for a menu at a local eatery.

He needed to be paid up front. A few folks bought it and never heard from him again.

The restaurant in question had never heard of him either.

Things like this are sad but are more common than you may think.

I am not saying all menu ads are scams. In fact, I will be around talking to some of you soon about a legitimate offer we are partnering with a local restaurant on.
All I am saying is, do your homework. If nothing else, pull out your phone and Google the salesman you are dealing with.

Even easier than that, call me. I don’t care if I’ve ever sold you an ad or ever will. Advice is free and I will give it honestly.

I will never tell you 100 percent of your advertising budget should go in my (or anyone else’s newspaper).

I believe in a balanced approach and will help anyone find that approach.
But the one thing I will not stand for is folks getting scammed; either by a poor product or no product at all.

We are your local marketing experts and we will be honest with you. We are here to serve you and, in turn, help you better serve the community we all call home.
It also seems every Chamber of Commerce has and ad to sell as well. Most of which bypass their local newspapers (which are usually their longest-standing members) and consult out-of-town firms. So once again, money leaves town –doesn’t that contradict the very mission of a Chamber of Commerce?

There are advertising opportunities everywhere and (nowadays) it seems everyone is a marketing expert.

We here at the News-Record really are. It is what we do and we want to help you. We can offer advice with print, radio, TV, mobile, online, whatever advertising you are interested in. Just because we don’t produce it, doesn’t mean we can’t help with your campaign.

The Whitesboro News-Record has been answering local marketing questions since 1877. It is what we do. We keep it local.

Community Journalism

Why community journalism endured when the bottom fell out

To my way of thinking, community newspapers, the heartbeat of American journalism, have been the saving grace, the silver lining of an otherwise volatile media landscape after the bottom fell out in ’08.

Community papers endured, weathered, survived — and in many cases thrived.

Don’t you wonder, why is that? What are the community newspapers doing right that the big guys are missing?

I’ll come to that in a minute.

First, what were many of the big guys doing wrong?

Raleigh News & Observer opinion editor Ned Barnette, writing in the May 3 N & O, under the headline “Newspapers shrink, but survive,” notes how large media companies (his parent company, McClatchy, included) got underwater in the early 2000s saddled by corporate debt — and I would add: investor greed.

Big newspapers made and make money, but much of it went – and still goes – to paying down debts, and to mollify out-of-town investors who don’t give a fig about the communities these newspapers serve.

Which brings us to our main message, the so-called “nut graph.”

Community newspapers survived, are surviving and will survive – because they serve, because small is beautiful and because local is the only game in town.

Got milk?


And weeklies, so called non-dailies, can pack their pages with all local news, photos, features, arts and entertainment, obits, weddings, engagements, first birthdays, check presentations, opinions, and ads – and never leave the community.

Community newspapers survive and thrive because of the SERVICE IMPERATIVE, a core working principal of their business plan, not an afterthought or add-on.

So take heart, young friends. You are entering a noble profession. No, you will not likely get rich doing community journalism; much like teaching, it is a calling, some call a sacred calling.

But you will be rich in experience, rich in meaningful relationships, and rich in the satisfaction of seeing how one person – you – can make a powerful difference for good in this sad old fractured world of ours.

You will see that when you help people tell their stories, when you give them a VOICE, that you are helping to build COMMUNITY, that most valued, elusive and precious of assets that a healthy society can possess.

For then, residents become citizens, strangers become friends, and people become stakeholders, engaged in the maintenance of their own civic affairs.

“Our most important job,” one enlightened community newspaper publisher told me,”…is to convince ordinary people that their lives matter!”

Let me close with another great quite, this one from the late great speaker of the house Sam Rayburn who said, “Any mule can kick down his barn. It takes a carpenter to BUILD one.”

Long live community journalism! Let’s get busy.

Community Journalism

A suggested prayer to open government meetings

Editor’s note: Recently the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that it is permissible to open a government meeting with prayer. North Dakota journalist Allan Burke has written the prayer all journalists wish they would pray. Our thanks to Ken Blum of Black Inklings for alerting us to this column.

Lord, may this meeting include full and open discussion of the issues, and let the public be assured that no deals have been cut or discussion held outside this meeting.

We ask that no board business be conducted by phone, email, Facebook, text or Twitter, and that this board follow federal and state laws.

Please guide this board to rarely go into executive session and always to be transparent.

It is our humble request that the official minutes include a reasonable and fair summary of the proceedings and not be censored by the politicians. We ask that members of this board abstain from voting when they have a conflict of interest.

May this board remember the ordinances, rules and regulations it has adopted and precedents it has set and follow them with consistency.

Lord, we ask that those voting to spend money remember that taxes come out of the pockets of hardworking citizens and should be spent sparingly and wisely.

We ask that no favoritism be shown because of a person’s family  connections, standing in the community, power or wealth and that all citizens be treated fairly and with respect.

Lord, we ask that competitive bids be sought for major expenditures and that the truth be told about those bids.

Finally, Lord, we ask that this board listen to the citizens and accept input, suggestions and criticism graciously.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with the opportunity to live in a democratic republic under the United States Constitution.


Business of News Community Journalism

Billionaire invests in community journalism

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper.” The speaker was not a journalist – it is billionaire Warren Buffet, who just invested an additional $142 million to purchase newspapers. We are all tired of hearing that “print is dead” and that our industry is history. We all know our that newspapers have a lot to offer to the public and to our advertisers. Apparently the legendary Warren Buffet agrees with us. He just invested $142 million purchasing newspapers and has expressed an interest in buying more publications. Warren Buffet has become one of the wealthiest persons in the world by following a simple strategy—he looks for business opportunities that are undervalued because most people don’t see the potential they offer. Buffet sees the potential of print advertising. When someone tells you that print is dying, tell them they might want to talk to Warren Buffet!

Circulation Community Journalism

Survey says: Readers love their community newspapers

So now the readers of NNA’s latest survey know what any community journalists have always known: Our readers think we’re doing a good job and almost three-quarters of them read us regularly.

What other industry can make such claims? Three-quarters of the people who live in towns served by community papers don’t shop regularly at Wal Mart or watch the same TV show or listen to the same music. But the latest Community Newspaper Readership Study by the National Newspaper Association and The Reynolds Journalism Institute indicates that a whopping 73 percent of residents in small towns and cities read local newspapers from one day to seven days a week. And more than two-thirds (78 percent) read most to all of the contents.
And there was even more good news in the survey: 80 percent consider local newspapers their primary news source; they prefer their community paper because it focuses on local news; and three-quarters say they look forward to reading their local newspaper.

What about other media? Eat your heart out, television – 50 percent chose newspapers for local news as opposed to 16.3 percent for TV and 6.7 percent for radio.

You can read a digest of the survey at the website of the Reynolds Journalism Institute (first link), or, if you’re a member of the National Newspaper Association, you can access the complete report that the NNA website (second link).

Community Journalism

New community journalism award offered by Fort Worth SPJ

A “Community Watchdog” award will be given to a Texas community newspaper this year. The new prize is part of the Fort Worth Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Awards, and is open to community newspapers throughout the state. The watchdog award is one of 10 different categories in the SPJ contest. All are open to media throughout Texas, but the Community Watchdog award is open only to publications under 10,000 circulation. The call for entries says the award will be given to “exemplary work – news, feature, investigative, opinion – involving public records.”

Community Journalism

Good news: 73 percent say they read community newspapers

Here’s some good news to help you face the new year with optimism: The National Newspaper Association has released results of a new study that shows (insert drum roll here) – 73 percent of people in smaller communities say they read their local newspaper at least once a week. And they’re not just skimming; 78 percent claim that they read all or most of their newspaper. What else? Readers share their paper with 3.34 persons (let us know if you find that .34 of a person), 41 percent keep their paper for six or more days, and they spend 37.5 minutes reading their papers. The study surveyed readers of papers with circulations of 8,000 or fewer.

Community Journalism Online news

A lesson from Walla Walla: it’s all about people

If you want to see the potential of your web product to draw in readers (and therefore advertisers), check out this project from a rural newspaper in Washington State, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. It’s basically stories and slideshows profiling Walla Walla residents. When you go to the site, click on the “About the Project” link to get the background on what they’re doing. Katrina Barlow of the Union-Bulletin explains it in this way: “Last year, I fell in love with a New York Times multimedia series called ‘One in 8 Million.’ Each weekly episode featured an everyday New Yorker, who shared something about his or her occupation or lifestyle. I realized that characters like those New Yorkers, who were so full of charisma and verve, lived in rural areas. The Walla Walla Valley is full of people who have remarkable stories. This is our attempt to highlight these untold stories.”

Community Journalism

Newspaper sponsors Western writing contest

Our friends at the Motley County Tribune in Matador are sponsoring a writing contest that may interest Texas journalists. It’s the Douglas Meador Writing Contest, named for the long-time, celebrated editor and publisher of the Tribune, who died in 1974. Publishers Laverne Zabielski and Larry Vogt tell what they are looking for: “We are interested in stories of those who came to the American West after 1850 and those who were here when the pioneers arrived. We want stories with authenticity, lively details, and a sense of place that capture the spirit of the land and highlight and celebrate rich traditions, struggles and accomplishments.” The website above gives all the information you’ll need for entering.

Community Journalism

Get names into the paper

Kennebunkport, Maine, is a long way from Texas. But Bridget Burns in Kennebunkport, who writes for a community newspaper, uses this blog to write about one of the major strengths of community journalism — the fact that we run lots of names and reflect the real lives of real people. You’ll enjoy Bridget’s short blogpost on the value of running names in the paper and why she loves community journalism.