Snoop

Local content.

As we interact with you, our readers, via email, phone or in-person we often hear that phrase.

It’s not like we keep formal statistics, but it seems like we hear those two words used about equally in two different ways.

Half of the conversations will be from people expressing appreciation for the local stories and updates that we are able to publish each week.

The other half is from people commenting that we need to publish more local content.

Some go so far as to say that all the content in the Herald should be local.

I would love to be able to do that.

Here are three reasons we can’t:

1. COVID-19.

The Gladetop Festival. The Pioneer Heritage Festival. The HOTO 4th of July Festival.

All local events we would have covered with stories and photos.

All canceled.

Due to COVID-19.

When an event gets canceled, it not only costs us a story opportunity, we also lose the related advertising and print revenue.

So far, reporter Doug Berger and I have been able to scheme up enough local features to have something each week.

But it hasn’t been easy.

If you have ideas for future local features we’d love to hear about them.

2. Staffing

It’s been a challenging year for the Herald, with some employee turnover, then being purchased by a new owner, then re-structuring remaining staff.

As a result, we’ve been running lean. I have not had a lot of time for writing stories. We don’t have employees that can cover events that happen at 6 p.m. on Saturday night. Or Sunday afternoons.

We’re about to hire another part-time position with hopes of freeing up more of my time for writing.

Let me also say this. 

We have a part-time reporter and part-time proofreader that have decades of experience in the newspaper business.

The rest of us?

Rookies.

The Herald is mostly put together by three people with three collective years experience with newspapers. All gained while working at the Herald.

Every time I see a bundle of new papers on Thursday mornings it feels like a minor miracle has occurred.

3. Advertising/Income

Maybe you’ve noticed that the size of the Herald can vary week to week. During my tenure here I’ve seen page counts range from 12 to 30.

You might think we set the size of the paper based on the amount of stories and articles we have for that week.

But you’d be wrong.

We base the size of the paper on how much advertising we have for that week.

Advertising dictates the size of the bucket.

Then I pour in the “house-written” content we have (front page features, school board and city council summaries, sports coverage, this column, etc).

But that’s never enough to fill the bucket. So we source “non-local” content to top things off and have a full paper.

What keeps us from having enough local content to fill the bucket each week?

Cost.

Writing a well-researched, original story that includes photos and interviews takes time.

I’ve spent 2-3 days writing some of my longer stories. 

To be blunt, we can’t (currently) afford to hire enough writers to fill the paper with original content each week.

Put another way, the Herald has as much local content as we can afford to publish at any given time.

You Can Help

I’ve pointed out before that the Herald is a community newspaper and there are two ways to read that.

It’s a paper about the community.

But it’s also by the community.

You can help increase the amount of local news in the Herald by:

Using your phone to snap a photo at an event we’re unable to cover. Email those photos to [email protected]

Becoming our newest contributor of Community News.

Becoming our newest weekly columnist (we’re currently looking for writers who can cover the outdoors, homeschooling, and homesteading).

Purchasing a subscription.

Advertising your business.

Considering us for any print-shop work (invoices, business cards, envelopes, etc).

Be Thankful

It probably goes without saying, but it’s a perilous time for local newspapers. Nationwide, COVID-19 has caused newsroom layoffs, reduced print schedules, and the closure of entire newsrooms.

We need trustworthy news sources.

Maybe now more than ever.

The vision of Ava and Douglas County without a local newspaper isn’t a pleasant one.

And at the moment, the Herald is treading water. We’re watching our overhead, looking for efficiencies, and deferring what costs we can until the economy picks up again.

We’re thankful to continue publishing each week.

We hope you are thankful to keep reading it.