The lessons learned in '84 provided good beginning to KS newspaper business
This community journalism career that started 36 years ago almost didn’t make it to the third year.
After one year as the editor of the twice-weekly Baxter Springs Citizen newspaper in the farthest southeast county of the state (Cherokee), and one year as the sports editor, news reporter and photographer for The Iola Register six-day-a-week newspaper in Allen County, I was ready for a change of scenery and something a little different.
I applied for newspaper work in Arizona where a friend of mine had moved after college. I applied for newspaper work in Hawaii because I always wanted to go there.
In the meantime, the owner of The Iola Register offered me a new job as the managing editor of the neighboring weekly newspaper in Woodson County – The Yates Center News – which he owned with his son.
When I accepted the new management job offer in the summer of 1984, I did not know what I was getting into. I had no real experience in the business side of the newspaper business.
The people of Yates Center and Woodson County could not have been nicer to me and Connie as she joined me in Yates Center and we learned the newspaper business the old-fashioned way - we did it all ourselves.
Looking back, I wonder how we made the business so successful in such poor economic times.
The truth is we were much too busy then to fully understand how terrible the Kansas economy was at the time. Besides Connie and me, we employed two other employees – a typist/office employee and a Linotype operator who also “laid out’’ - designed - the two grocery store ads that we published each week.
I knew how to produce the news, sports and photos for the newspaper. I knew how to design the newspaper pages. I knew how to develop 35mm black and white film and I knew how to produce black and white photo prints. I knew how to operate the new Radio Shack personal computers we had to print off the news copy.
But I did not know anything about the advertising and business side of the business. I did not know how to sell the ad space and I did not know how to design the ads. And I didn’t know how to collect payment for the ads.
So in the summer of 1984, I was learning many new lessons about the newspaper business that I had no idea even existed and the more I learned about the business the more I liked it and valued it.
While the business model for newspapers has changed and evolved over the years, the basic goals of the business remain.
For example, good newspapers still provide a great and inexpensive advertising service for local businesses both in print and online.
Good newspapers continue to help local business grow and succeed just like they always have.
Good newspapers still serve as the citizens’ watchdog over local government proceedings and still serve as the community’s most reliable, dependable, accurate and trustworthy news source.
Good newspapers still provide the important role of chronicling the local history as it occurs.
Besides learning early on how to help local businesses with their advertising needs, I also learned how to listen to readers’ concerns and complaints and to help them tell their stories in the newspaper.
Helping local people tell their stories, recording the local history as it occurs and helping the community progress in various ways has always made community journalism worthwhile and rewarding.
A lot of people say this about their careers, and I say it, too - I never really intended to stay at it this long. It just happened. And while I call it “work’’ it’s never really felt like work. For me, it’s just business.