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home : opinion : columnists October 23, 2016

8/14/2014 6:58:00 PM
A shameless plug - exciting new look coming your way
Bill Forhan

I had a meeting with a young woman this week and was reminded how poorly we in the newspaper industry promote our own business. We seem to get caught up in believing that everybody knows the importance of our products and services. But with our rapidly changing media world it is just no longer true. Everyday our customers are met with messages from our competitors about how "print is dead" and how everything you need to know can be found on your smart phone, Facebook or Twitter connection.

Truth is that much of the "news" you find on the web needs to be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. Who actually posted the information? How current is it? Is the information factual and accurately attributed or is it just another Internet rumor posted by some conspiracy theorist who believes the government has been taken over by aliens from a planet on the far side of the sun?

We make our share of mistakes, but unlike those Internet rumor mongers, we actually attend local city council and school board meetings. We stay in contact with the local officials responsible for establishing local policy and we ask questions in order to make sure you are fully informed. We also attend most local sporting events and festivals and try to help support local volunteer organizations. We don't rely solely on the press release sent by those responsible.

We do encourage local groups to keep us informed and to submit information about their events and programs that would be of interest to the local community. Our papers are after all "community" newspapers. We rarely publish state or national news. In our community bulletin board you will regularly find information about upcoming local events. These are free notices available to non-profit groups. And we encourage local organizations to submit news and photos of their activities that is of interest to the community.

It is true that newspapers are old technology - not very exciting in the world of high tech digital wiz-bang! All of our papers have been around, serving their communities, for over 100 years. None of the new high tech wiz-bang media produce any unique or tested local content. Except of course our own local web sites. And for the first six months of this year the unique visitor counts to our local web sites have grown by nearly 17 percent over last year to 91,824 visitors per month. That is over 21,500 unique visitors per week.

Our old, dull print products, however, haven't had a makeover since we bought the papers almost 14 years ago. At that time we converted the papers to the national "standard size" and added color. It wasn't very good color because we had to do it all by hand. Over the years, we have made a lot of changes in the production process to improve the quality and make us much more environmentally friendly. We added a laser plate maker, bought digital cameras and eliminated all of the harmful chemicals we had previously used. But the basic product has not changed since Sept. of 2000.

In a world where change is the only constant our old, dull print product need to be refreshed. We have decided it's time to give the papers a new look. So, sometime in the next month to six weeks we will be making a substantial change in our layout. We will, as they say, be reducing the size of the candy bar! No, you won't be getting less. We are changing the size in order to make it easier to handle and read. We will add more sections and more color capacity. Sports for example will begin in the middle of the first section where it will begin in a full color position and jumps will proceed in the normal flow from front to back making it easier to follow a story. Our content may get moved around in order to take maximum advantage of the new layout but all of the local content you have come to love will still be there.

I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage local organizations to review any content that they currently have listed in the paper such as in the calendars or bulletin boards and make sure your information is up to date. We try to follow-up on these items regularly but sometimes find we have a wrong phone number or the day of the meeting has been changed. And send us your news stories. What has your club, church or association been up to? Have you been involved in helping with fire relief or some other local need? Send us an email and we'll try to find room to publish it.

We are excited about the coming changes. We believe you will find the new size a lot easier to handle and read. With your help, it will still be the best and most complete source of reliable local information.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or

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