PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK: More hiccups come this time around with expansion
Tuesday, March 05, 2013 4:22 AM
It seemed like a good idea in January to take over ownership of the Tri-County Record in Rushford on March 1. I had always been interested in the newspaper due to its geographic location that fits in well with our group as well as the vitality of the community.
Once I reached a tentative agreement with previous owner Myron Schober, I thought the sooner the better for the transfer. I knew my editor in Spring Valley was pregnant with a due date of March 22, but this was her first one and the "common wisdom" is that first-time mothers usually aren't early. I figured that would leave me with enough time to get Rushford rolling before she took her leave.
I was wrong. Not only was she early, she was very early, delivering a healthy, baby boy on Feb. 26, the day before I signed the legal papers to purchase the Tri-County Record and three days before the transfer took effect.
Fortunately, we had been training someone to take over some of her responsibilities, but we were a long way from being ready.
Not only that, but just a couple weeks after I made the initial commitment, I found out that the mail processing center in Rochester was shutting down March 1. We knew it was coming, but not the exact date and the postal service gave us just a few weeks notice to make other plans, something I wrote about in this column last week.
Let's see, what else has happened since that initial commitment. Gas prices have jumped dramatically, meaning my travels to the Rushford office will become that much more expensive. And, the first production Tuesday, when we put the newspaper together for printing, a major snowstorm was headed our way.
Don't forget, we are already a bit out of sorts as our editor for the Republican-Leader and Chatfield News has been out since her fall off a bridge last September.
I feel like our whole operation is total chaos right now, but I also know it has been before - even if not to this extent - and we will get through.
Now, some people may be wondering why I would be interested in another small town newspaper. They may be thinking that newspapers are dead, a poor choice to invest in.
There are some problems, but they are mostly with large, metropolitan newspapers and some of their problems have to do with too lofty of expectations that got them into extreme debt they couldn't overcome. Others have unique problems - poor management or unrealistic business models.
After all, businesses go bankrupt every day. You just hear more about newspapers because they are a community institution.
I won't discount the impact of the Internet on our viability. Still, that has only changed us, not killed us. There is nothing else quite like a newspaper, whether it is in print form or electronic form.
Newspapers in small communities are still quite healthy. Rural markets don't have the size to attract the national competition so the only source of news and advertising is often the local newspaper.
I realize the smart move is probably going into a larger market. Even some of my fellow rural-based newspaper publishers feel that they need to start something up in the big city to remain viable.
I'm quite comfortable with small towns. I know it is never going to be a financially lucrative model, but there is a satisfaction with filling a need that is (usually) appreciated by neighbors and friends.
Some days we wonder if all our work is worth it, but there is always something to lift our spirits and we keep on going to provide our readers with a quality product they can take pride in.
For now, though, you may see some lapses and you may see some panic in our eyes as we adjust to a new routine. However, we'll be back in the groove soon, and I'm confident the addition of another community publication to our hometown network will be a plus for all of us.