Being a newspaper is not about all the trappings that come with running a large, profitable business. Large corporate or publicly traded companies may not be the best stewards of newspapers in the future as the renowned Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla. recently reported. Officials acknowledge their traditional revenue source, the Tampa Bay Times, can no longer finance its parent organization. The institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, has traditionally relied on dividends from the paper, as well as tuition, foundation support and donations. The institute once received dividends—millions annually—from the Tampa Bay Times, but those checks are no longer being cut.
In its raw form a newspaper is still what it has always been about, it’s a partnership with the community it serves. The community provides the financial support while the newspaper holds up its end by being the community watch dog, reporting on hometown events, providing the local merchants with a proven advertising medium and being the hometown cheerleader. Yes, to stay in business you must run a profitable operation or you can’t sustain the effort, but what still counts to the community you serve is providing the platform for publishing local news and useful advertising information that readers find of value and can afford.
This community newspaper has had to face some of the same financial challenges as our area daily counterparts, but while they have released staff recently as a result of outsourcing and cutbacks we’ve added six experienced staff castoffs in recent weeks, with more in the wings. We are continuing to expand our digital offering, which will remain free, and we look to the future with promise and optimism as we continue to live up to our founders motto of being “more than a community newspaper, we’re a community service.” In the end, the real problem lies with the newspaper investors who require profit priority over the informational needs of the local community.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org