By Wayne William Cipriano
Talk about hiding your light under a bushel basket (for youngsters and city people that means masking your accomplishments). The HERALD received a grant from Google as part of a three hundred million dollar program to support small and medium sized newspapers.
The idea, I assume, is to help newspapers that are having the same problem a lot of businesses are having as Covid-19 has its way with all of us. And, contrary to what a lot of people think, newspapers are businesses and not public services.
In smaller communities where local businesses are fewer and create less cash flow, advertising dollars, the meat and potatoes for newspapers, are among the first expenditures that businesses reduce during hard times.
When you have a paper that has been publishing without interruption for more than one hundred and thirty years, you tend to think of it as an institution that will continue forever. But, just like any other business, a few bad months, a few bad decisions, a run of bad luck, and it could be gone, just like that.
I think Google understands that, especially in the case of smaller newspapers, when a paper gets into trouble or goes out of business the locale is not large enough to interest a new newspaper to start up from scratch and often not financially remunerative enough to attract newspaper chains which, even if they buy up the newspaper, seldom provide the deeply local stuff like high school football, church bake-offs, traffic accidents, city council elections, etc.
In Douglas County we have two news sources. We have KKOZ radio and the HERALD. And we are lucky in that each seems solid enough to resist the bashing Covid-19 is passing around.
It was reported that over twelve thousand newspapers from over one hundred countries applied for the Google grants and the HERALD was one of the first papers to be awarded one. I think the announcement of that award should have been on the front page and not buried in the deep recesses of the A section. It could have been modestly to place it there, or maybe they just didn’t want everyone in the county dropping by for a little loan.
The grant that the HERALD received, five thousand dollars, may seem hefty to us but like all businesses, the money could be wasted in a heartbeat on frivolities. While trifles such as wages and salaries, supplies, maintenance, taxes, and so on will no doubt exhaust some of the grant, I don’t see why a portion of it can’t be spent on a show of gratitude to the vastly overworked, completely unpaid, and often unappreciated correspondents and columnists (like me). I’m not talking about inviting us to a general “Thank You” picnic for the entire circulation of the paper where the City of Ava Maintenance Staff will show up and scarf down all the hot dogs. I’m suggesting a quiet, intimate champagne and caviar celebration for the, you’ll remember, UNPAID weekly contributers. Perhaps around Christmas Time?
And I don’t think rules such as “grant funds must be spent on costs directly for the support or production of core news and original news reporting” should be interpreted too literally. But, that’s just me.
Anyway, the HERALD should be proud that an organization like Google, a competitor to some extent in the “news game,” is sending cash its way to support local news which couldn’t exist without the radio station and the paper.
So, in conclusion, I think the announcement of the grant should have been on the front page, don’t you?