Growing up in a newspaper helped me to understand a lot of things about the business. I understood the “Power of the Press,” and how it could be used and abused. Most importantly, I learned what people enjoyed about the newspaper and what they depended on.
The main thing subscribers expected was that the newspaper would be delivered every day. It was like the whistle at the mill telling folks when to start and stop.
Over the past few years, we have seen the delivery of news change in so many ways. The internet and mobile devices threaten to make the newspaper obsolete. Many newspapers are going to online versions only or just giving up.
My local newspaper in Virginia is published twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It is a very successful newspaper based on looking at the advertisements, inserts and what I perceive to be a strong readership.
Recently, a number of changes that scare me have been taking place at and in my local newspaper. Keep in mind, this paper was first published in 1736. Therefore, we would have to assume that the paper has survived more drastic changes, sequestrations and revolutions than the one I will note.
In my opinion the local (Small townish) weekly/twice weekly papers are not only in a position to survive; they are in a position to grow. I am only a rocket guy who used to cut the grass and write sports at the daily newspaper in Alabama where my Daddy worked for about 40 years, but I will share my logic.
The secret to any local paper is that it stays local and doesn’t try to bill itself as a “Know It All” when it comes to world/national politics, sports and other issues we see every night on the boob tube. The local paper needs to tell you about Johnny’s home run, Betty’s beauty pageant win, Otis’ obituary and take care of the local home-owned businesses. The news should be good and when possible keep stuff that will only cause a ruckus out of the paper.
What about the news? People deserve to know about the bad stuff.
Blah… Blah… Blah
Let them tell you about it. That’s right; give your ranting readers a voice and put it on newsprint.
That is exactly what my local newspaper does or did up until a few weeks ago. My local newspaper for years has had a two page section called, “The Last Word.”
It is beautiful. In my opinion, it is an important part of their success. In “The Last Word,” readers can call, fax, mail or email their concerns, disappointments, compliments and rants to the newspaper to be printed twice a week. They get to do it anonymously.
The anonymous part is important when you send in a letter telling everybody that you do a great job fixing transmissions. You just say, “I got my transmission fixed by Travis at Travis’ Transmission. He did a great job and even walked my dog that I left in the car by mistake.”
Yes, of course, Travis wrote that.
He had a bad weekend at the horse track and couldn’t afford to advertise. He’ll be back on his feet soon and put an advertisement in the “Local Labor” section.
As noted, this was all good until a few weeks ago. The paper started cutting back on “The Last Word.” It seems to have gone from two pages to one page. They do state that you can get the full version online.
I fear "The Last Word" is headed for extinction.
Putting it online is not going to work!
If people want to see rants or attaboys on the internet, they will go to their favorite social media site and yell at each other and pat each other on the back there.
It is worth the space in the real newspaper, trust me on this.
In the mean time, I am going to select a few of the comments/issues folks have and try to help them. Beginning today and for the next few Thursdays, I will respond to my neighbors and call it “The Lastest Word.”
Think of it as a “Dear Abby” approach; I’m just “The Tractor Guy” who wants to help (and see what it feels like to wear a Dear Abby helmet). I will continue with my normal stories and columns that appear in newspapers and magazines in the Land of Cotton.
And make no mistake, I love my local paper.
The Lastest Word/Dear Tractor Guy
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Dear Wife of Squirrel Guy,
This is kind of you to say this. However, have you ever had squirrels in your attic? They get up there and tear up all your stuff, run around making lots of racket and chew holes in your roof and sides of your house. I can assure you the cost to fix it will not be peanuts.
Also, here is a nice recipe for squirrel dumplings.
What in the world was your car doing in your house? This blows my mind; I would have given anything to have seen it. It reminds me of “The Andy Griffith Show” episode where Goober takes the car apart and puts it back together in the Sheriff’s Office. I only thought things like this happened on television.
How did you get the car into the room to
start with? Did you really manage to turn it around once you got it in there?
Get in touch with Squirrel Guy, if he’s feeding the squirrels, he will probably take care of your hermit crabs. Mine always die before they get home from the beach, or they forget to get in the car when it’s time to go home.
Anyway, I hope you find someone to give your crabs to.
Well, we all make mistakes. Maybe, just maybe, you should have put a stamp on your letter. Where is the Post Office’s complaint about you?
I have never eaten at the Post Office, but I am willing to give it a try.
Soccer moms would be pulling each others’ hair out, complaining about playing time, trophies and transportation as much as the politicians already do. However, a good soccer referee or little league umpire might be able to help. They put up with garbage from both sides and are able to tune out all the yelling and screaming.
You might also want to try the Squirrel Guy. If he’s feeding the squirrels and they aren’t tearing up his house and running around in the attic, he is evidently a pretty smart fellow. If he’s feeding them and they are tearing up his house and running around in the attic, he may already be working in Washington.
“The Tractor Guy”
Cranks My Tractor
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Tell 27 people you love them today; something good will happen.I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and The Virginia Gazette.