By: Forrest R. Church, Publisher
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
I am typing this week’s column after our normal deadline has passed. The column is rushed. It is last minute. Probably full of typos that I will see days after it prints, yet I’m blind to them now. Our main page layout team member, aka my beautiful wife Casey, will not be pleased when I send this to her last second, messing up her final edition page count, in one of the most difficult editions of the year to complete.
But here we go …
Life on the business and personal front has been unbelievably busy. Sound familiar? I’d bet many of you find yourselves in a similar situation this holiday season. Maybe it is in part due to low energy that I have battled due to low sugar issues (makes everything in life more tiring – I wake up tired), but it seems like holiday exhaustion this year is at an extreme level.
I should probably utilize this column composition time into our publication’s workflow. I will undoubtedly pay for this lost time at 3 a.m. on the night before publication when I could have gone to bed but decided to type a column I feel is important instead.
This is after all our second busiest stretch of the year at the newspaper. The good news is that on the tail end, our hard-working staff does get to enjoy some rare downtime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, very valuable time we need to soak up. Thus, it probably would have made sense to skip the column this week and work towards bringing our Christmas and New Year’s editions to completion instead.
Ever face a time crunch / life crunch? It is daily, sometimes hourly on my end. I’m not complaining, though I cannot blame anyone for reading the above paragraphs for drawing that conclusion.
I have stories I have desired to share since my last column within the Thanksgiving edition, but I am placing them to the side. If you think I was long winded in past columns, you have no idea (yet) what is building in the back of my mind. I had a recent battle with Facebook / social media that has exposed some unbelievable truths, involving help from our newspaper association and even local congressional political figures. I want to share with you these experiences, as some of these truths need to serve as a warning, whether you use social media personally or on a business front, but I better set this aside – especially since this situation is still unfolding.
I have also had some horrific news delivered our way concerning inflation and what is happening with our print prices (again), just months after the largest price increase in the history of our company. This topic has angered me at an unhealthy level, not only for our sake, but because I see what inflation is doing to those living at the low income / middle income level, the senior citizens living off a fixed income, etc. I personally think national media is doing a terrible job sharing these concerning facts. Wow, you are making $3 more an hour, but when you look at your expenses you would have needed $5 more an hour to break even – stop Forrest, you said you were moving on …
I cannot tell you how much I want to dig into these topics, as I always say, venting my frustrations with you via a print column is cheaper than therapy.
But I’m learning more and more as a dad, husband, business owner, along with a participating member in more “other organization / groups” than I can count, that sometimes you have to say, “TIME OUT” or heaven forbid “Thank you, but I need to decline”. I’m only focusing on one thing, at least for the next (fill in the blank) time frame. If I try to focus on everything at once my efforts will be average quality when I desire to strive towards excellence (seldom achieved).
Sometimes it is better to be excellent in a few areas in personal and/or professional life than average in most areas. I cannot afford to be an average dad, husband or person of faith at the expense of having irons in the fire day and night and being stretched too thin. I have to say time out, this (fill in the blank – kids, spouse, time in scripture, etc.) is more important than focusing on 20 open tabs on my computer, a cell phone ringing right now, reading breaking news coming across the wire on what politician is trying to ruin our way of life this time, if my sports team is winning/ losing, etc.
If I’m honest with you, I feel I often do miserably in these key areas of my life more times than not. There is certainly room for improvement. How much of this is due to not enough hours in a day / energy in a day vs choices on what is most important to focus on?
The key I suppose is to keep trying, even if failing, keep moving ahead. Not to focus on the big picture, but start with small things. Walk away from typing this column in the home office on the Sunday before Christmas and spend some time with the kiddos at the kitchen island at lunch. As important as I feel this column is, was that time with them during the holidays (one on one) more important? Yup.
Food for thought, maybe somebody needs to hear this life lesson I continue to learn first hand, it is a common theme in both faith based and secular leadership books.
So, taking a pause and placing all the business of the newspaper’s moving pieces in a timeout to focus on this column, I want to put some specific highlights on appreciation toward you, our readers this Christmas / New Year’s season because it/you are that important within the big picture!
Your subscription and/or advertisement marketing support has allowed us to not only maintain local news coverage this year, but expand, most weeks by 2-4 more pages of news than the prior year (comparing our editions one year apart). Here is a news flash: If our community support allows, I would like to at least make the same increase in 2023. Would you like 2, 4, 6 more pages of local news and sports each week? We will “discuss” later on the possibility of making this happen in a future column.
From time to time, I am contacted by other non competing newspaper publishers that have experienced massive drops in circulation, asking how we are maintaining and even experiencing small circulation growth? There is not a single answer in my response, I think there are lots of factors and who knows, maybe some unknowns mixed in as well.
I know a lot of our success surrounds the hard work conducted by our staff. Yes, like all employees our team works to cover personal bills, but I also believe most on our team are involved because they care about our local communities in the greater Williams and Fulton County areas of Northwest Ohio. Working at The Village Reporter is not just another job. Whether selling an ad, editing an article, composing news coverage, delivering the newspapers to stores; I believe there is something special about our task at hand for our team. It is a blessing to be able to highlight local hometown news.
This is also a REALLY touchy subject, one that some in my advisory circle would probably say avoid stating, but most of our team, including the owners of the family company, work at financial levels that some fast food restaurants surpass at hire in with the crazy inflation levels we are seeing. A community newspaper is not a line of work you go into if you desire a fat bank account.
If you use math taught in fourth grade instead of the math that our government uses, it is not hard to figure out when our newspaper which is 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x thicker in hometown news coverage over a traditional 6 or 8 page hometown newspaper (or even daily newspaper), that we make pennies on a newspaper sale, losing money in thicker editions by the time we print, mail, gas charges to deliver, delivery payroll, etc. (losses offset by advertisement revenue).
What am I trying to say? Nobody is getting rich in this line of work. There is little profit margin at the end of the day. There are lots of reasons newspapers are failing in this country, but one of the main factors is you can make better money elsewhere with less stress, so some very good newspaper staff members at papers around the country changed professions.
I was advised years ago when the country faced the recession and we were borrowing personally week to week to keep the newspaper’s front doors open (I have always believed in our newspaper’s future thus I took this risk), that if I would put in half the work hours in a factory job that I could triple my income and have a life outside of work; more or less gaining 3-5 hours of every day back and most weekends. I mentally received that communicated advice and probably agreed with it, but instead of playing victim, I thought (and prayed) long and hard on my career choice and believe this is where I belong. I certainly am not speaking for any of our team members, but I have to believe they feel the same way at some level big or small. And like my appreciation towards our readers, I am thankful for our hard working team as well.
So, when asked how we are maintaining and growing when so many newspapers are making massive cuts or closing? Our hard-working team and without sounding super spiritual, “fulfilling the calling” are key components.
But at the end of the day, I believe no matter how hard we work and for what personal monetary level, our success would be impossible without you, our community readers and area advertisers.
Our little towns certainly struggle now compared to decades past (empty store fronts, less community involvement with one another, etc.). Our communities are changing right in front of us. We often do not notice as the changes are very small, yet over time they become large.
Opening our archives to our historical past, you can see massive changes, many of which I am sad to say are of a negative nature. But one thing seems to hold true, our little Northwest Ohio towns still want hometown news. Often news that bigger media outlets consider non worthy is precisely what you desire.
–We (our local communities) love the feature on the veteran who served his country.
–We (our local communities) love seeing the FFA activities selling fruit.
–Look who made Honor Roll!
–That little one stoplight town has a new all time leader in points scored in girls basketball.
And because of this love for your little communities and our “non newsworthy little stories” according to bigger media outlets, you have reflected that support towards us via a $2.00 per week subscription or counter sale purchase at a local store. I do believe that obtaining 300-350 weekly local hours of effort for $2 is the best deal around. Despite this great deal, local residents still have to make the purchase to support us and it is appreciated.
As I mentioned above, sometimes in life (personal and/or professional) I feel it is important to set tasks and professional business aside and reflect, focusing on what is important. With that said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support in 2022, we look forward serving you in 2023.”
Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I’d love to hear from you. As always, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the mail at 115 Broad Street, Montpelier, Ohio 43543.