Opening up about the newspaper process

As a newspaper junkie and someone who has been interested in the business for quite some time, I love letters to the editor—even the one below, critical of our coverage (or lack there of) of Marion County’s many events.

Mike is entitled to his opinion, and I am sure some agree with his assessments. I appreciate him sharing it with us and doing so publicly. We have no problem with a little criticism coming our way. We are used to it.

This editorial isn’t intended to rebuke Mike. He is right, we didn’t cover those events fully, while we did put some coverage of the Rod’s event online.

This editorial is intended to open up about the newspaper business, Marion County, and the reality we sit in here at the Free Press.

When I purchased the Free Press, there were two grocery stores in Hillsboro, vibrant downtowns full of businesses despite a few open buildings, and a steady list of grocery and retail inserts in the paper.

It doesn’t take an economist to realize that the situation in Marion County isn’t the same as it was when I purchased the paper.

Marion County, like many rural counties, is experiencing rural flight, economic troubles, and a future that could be bleak if things don’t change.

That has affected our budget and how we cover things. I try to make the best decisions I can, but the truth is we simply don’t have the resources available to us that we used to, and we have to adjust due to those realities.

This paper is not supplemented by the government. It isn’t supplemented by subscribers, either. As a free paper, we aren’t allowed to bid on legal notices. The only thing that pays the bills for this newspaper are the ads on its pages.

When there are fewer ads, we have less budget to spend. It’s as simple as that. Paper costs, postage increases, and other challenges have added up as well. This isn’t a pity party, though. We want to see a future where the paper is thick, the county’s Main Streets are full of businesses, and we have a thriving county with thriving businesses.

We want to help get there, too, but we aren’t there yet. Some will say the newspaper business is failing, but that isn’t true. The truth is, like all your local businesses in this county, we have had to make adjustments to fewer customers, and that has nothing to do with the newspaper business at all but rather the county’s economy.

I want to see this county thrive, not just survive, as I have invested a good chunk of time and resources into this paper.

If you don’t like the paper or its contents, let us know. I appreciate Mike’s thoughts and will keep them in mind when making decisions going forward.

The best thing readers of this editorial can do is shop with local businesses when you get an opportunity. Grocery and retail shopping that can be done in Marion County should be done here.

I am not naive to the idea that everything a family needs doesn’t exist here anymore, and I also know it’s not always convenient to shop locally.

My plea, is to spend money with local folks and do it because you care about the quality of life in this county. If we can do that small step, we can slowly grow this economy and start moving toward a sustainable future for Marion County.

– Joey Young, Publisher