July 02, 2014 - With little fanfare or excitement or coverage by any electronic media platform known to man or woman, July waltzed into our lives as Community Newspaper Month. Across these fruited plains community papers, free and paid, with and without news are 'sposed to stop, and take a bow.
It ain't gonna' happen.
Community paper people are the proverbial "Do as I say and not as I do" business-types. We know, and preach the gospel of continued, well targeted marketing to our local business partners. We're too damned busy trying to make it happen for everybody else, that at the end of the day we just wanna' go home and cut the grass and jump in the lake.
Community paper folk don't communicate their product's virtues. C'est la vie.
That's why it was cool when the Community Papers of Michigan (CPM) group went to Lansing and to the Governor and asked him to recognize this state's community paper industry.
Hats off to independent paperman Fred Jacobs, of Hastings, for making this happen.
Last month Fred, longtime community paper advocate, approached the Governor, who signed a proclamation naming July as Community Paper Month in Michigan. In part, the proclamation reads:
" . . . Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without anger of losing it . . . Whereas, the publishing industry of community papers and newspapers . . . is an important element in local communities throughout this nation. Collectively, these publications disseminate valuable information to more than 50 million homes each week. (over 2 million in Michigan alone) . . .
" . . . community papers proudly serve the information needs of their communities . . . . promoting local commerce, free enterprise and public service . . . . blah, blah, blah, Now, therefore, I, Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, do hereby, blah, blah, blah."
In other words, as Pharaoh said in the 1956 classic movie, The 10 Commandments, "So let it be written. So let it be done."
I've long stood (alone, I might add) on top of my rickety old soap box, preaching the doctrine of community newspapers. I've said communities with their own papers are better communities, because their residents are more informed. Better information begats better decisions being made. Better decisions begats better run local governments, which begats more civic involvement.
The opposite is also true.
I like to compare, or make the analogy, that goes like this . . . a community newspaper is the glue which binds a community together. A good community paper is not only its community's No. 1 cheerleader, it is also its No. 1 critic. A good community paper person can rally a community for a worthy cause, or point the light of scrutiny on the less-than-savory public official, policy or practices.
In the Gov's proclamation, he says, community papers promote "local commerce, free enterprise."
Community papers give local businessmen and women direct access to the community they chose to run their businesses.
Community newspapers are the original neighbor-to-neighbor selling, trading, buying medium.
We're like this little old, matchmaker lady, hooking up folks (sellers and buyers) to make everybody happy.
I think it's funny, when somebody says, "I have 400, or a thousand likes on my Facebook page" and because of this number it is a good way to disseminate information.
Do you know we have something like 9,000 "likes" for this company' newspapers?
And, when I say "like," I mean real likes, because people fork over $32 a year to show their like and have the paper delivered to the address of their choice.
What's a more bettererer way to get your message out?
That said, I have just put $50 in an envelope (sealed) in my desk. And, I will give that $50 to the person who touches my heart the most when they write me on one of three subjects:
1. Why community newspapers are important; or
2. What purpose they serve; or
3. What would this community be like if it didn't have a community paper.
Choose your own length.
You have July 11 to get it to me. Hopefully by then, I will have put another $50 in the envelope, upping the prize to $100. You can snail mail to this newspaper office or e-mail me, Don@ShermanPublications.org. Good luck and keep reading.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org