Jim

Awww, they like us

In The news biz on September 20, 2007 at 5:41 pm

When you work for a newspaper, you’re mainly apt to hear from the public when you screw something up, or failed to catch someone else’s screw-up. And woe be to a copy editor or designer if he lets slip in public that he works for the paper: Then he has the unenviable task of explaining what he does for a living and/or having some bitter ass grind his axe for 30 minutes. Or answering the (intended to be) rhetorical question: “Don’t newspapers proofread, anymore?” Or all three.

Those were largely my experiences in the news biz for many years. Not everyone was actually mean, but the ratio of unpleasant encounters to pleasant wasn’t all that great.

Then I went to work for Bluffton Today. I don’t know if it was because it was delivered free, or folks liked our snippets of self-deprecating humor, or because we ran lots of fluffy pets stuff, but people loved us. Publicly. Like, in the checkout line at the grocery store. It was astonishing.

I got a tiny taste of that with the new gig, today, in the form of an anonymous voicemail:

“I’m not going to leave my name and number, I just wanted to let you know that I got one of your papers today and I think it is positively great. There used to be a newspaper like yours, it was only weekly, called the “Tarheel Shopper” and a nice little sales paper called the “Fayetteville Trader,” but the
“Fayetteville Observer” stomped them down and bought them out. They even bought out the Paraglide.
I was so glad when someone threw one in my yard today that I ran down the street thanking them. Don’t let them buy you out. They are not the only newspaper in town – now. This is so great. I stole one from my doctor’s office the other day. I was so glad when someone threw one at my home today. Thank you very, very much. Keep up the good work.”

I do think there is hope for news. I don’t know if there is room for multiple newspapers in all our markets, but there is in people’s living rooms.

P.S.: Regarding the caller’s comparison of SmartNews to a couple of defunct shoppers — We only dream of having the ad content of a shopper. We are a free paper, but we’re not a “total market coverage product.”

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