Home' Local Media Today : March 2006 Contents One of the great pleasures I’ve had in this business is that of owning a
community newspaper. I thought I had seen it all at community newspa-
pers until the day I arrived on the scene in Holden, Massachusetts.
It’s difficult to find just the right way to announce a change of ownership. I
certainly didn’t discover it that day. However, I did quickly get to the
important business of meeting with staff.
Having spent months in advance of my purchase plotting all the changes
that would be necessary to “right the ship,” I came away from my first
week thinking that the only changes necessary were in how I viewed the
special opportunity I’d been given. I was a newspaper owner.
Indeed, all of a sudden the size of
my staff was just right, or perhaps
in need of a few more resources. I
realized quickly that I didn’t just
employ reporters and sales staff,
but I had also acquired a staff of
town historians, gifted writers,
concerned community citizens,
coaches, and much more. In other
words, my staff offered more than newspaper expertise. They were dedicat-
ed to the community they served. The only short-cuts they took were the
ones it would take me months to learn; how to get around town despite a
major, and seemingly never-ending, construction project on Main Street.
As we continued to grow the newspaper, one of my favorite new programs
was to feature selected stories from our local high school newspaper. Each
month when the high school paper goes to press, we brand a section within
our newspaper featuring the best student work. The collaboration has
resulted in an energized group of students who are excited to see their sto-
ries in the local paper. Some of them have come on board to work with us.
And each year we also donate money to provide scholarships to an annual
journalism workshop. Our editor and the school newspaper advisor work
closely to monitor the program. It’s a gratifying and profitable alliance. I
highly recommend it.
Nearly four and a half years later that weekly publication’s success paved
the way for several more. And just last month, the company added a new
weekly newspaper, the Leominster Champion, in Leominster,
Massachusetts. Although the paper is not under my day-to-day leadership,
I’ve followed this latest successful launch. It has all the right ingredients. It
began publication with passionate, talented employees from Leominster.
Add in a local chamber event and cable television interview to announce
the new paper, new collateral material, new vending machines, a small,
local office and some big promises to the city and they’re off and running
Certainly there’s a need for different business models for different commu-
nities. However, regardless of the business model we decide on as publish-
ers, we all face the challenge of hiring and retaining great people.
Obviously, the bigger your company gets, the more challenging it is to stay
connected to the staff, and thus, the community.
Having had the privilege of overseeing one hundred newspapers at one
time in my career and owning a few newspapers at another, I’ve come to
appreciate the “run them like you own them” philosophy. Just remember as
you grow your company that you win or lose the battle one community at a
time. A former boss of mine used to say, “bigger isn’t better; better is bet-
In this era of newspaper consolidation, that’s especially good advice.
SNA Board Chairman
Chairman of the Board
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just a few months in, he was promoted to the
head of the department. It’s in this capacity
that won the recognition of the API judges.
Joanne Burghardt is about to celebrate her
25th anniversary with Metroland, Durham
Region Group and her publisher Tim
Whittaker is absolutely delighted that she
didn’t go to pharmacy school as originally
intended. As a high school student, Joanne
had visions of apothecary but was persuaded
by her English teacher to develop the writing
skills she was already displaying. So, with
some encouragement to write and a photogra-
phy hobby, Joanne found her way to the jour-
nalism program at the local college in
Oshawa and took her first job as a crime
reporter for Oshawa This Week. At the tender
age of 19, she was the youngest person in the
newsroom and it was onward , and upward,
Twenty five years have passed and in 2006
Joanne is Editor-In-Chief and is responsible
for 23 community newspaper editions and
dozens of additional theme publications, with
over 200,000 households delivered two or
three times each week.
Her publisher, Tim Whittaker, said “Under
Joanne’s leadership our newspapers have
been increasingly recognized for editorial
excellence winning hundreds of awards.
Joanne ensures our almost 40 editorial staff
serve our communities and readers well by
adhering to her principles that guide us –
responsibility, accuracy, integrity, independ-
ence, respect, and fair play. Joanne talks the
talk, and walks the walk.”
successful newsrooms do differently from
their peers so she was forced to give the issue
a good deal of thought. Her answer was two-
fold. First, she says, one needs to identify
what success looks like and in her estimation
it definitely includes engaged readers. Says
Joanne, “Engaged readers take part in active
debate of the issues. If you’re getting phone
calls and letters, your readers are engaged.
The newsroom that complains about ringing
telephones and too much email doesn’t under-
stand the rich resource at their fingertips.”
Achieving success is a different story. Joanne
says “it takes vision, a long-term plan that
meets the objectives set for the entire news-
paper, and a core value that recognizes team-
work leads to success. Every person within
the newsroom has a role to play. If done
right, our success is measured by benchmarks
such as reader engagement, attention to the
bottom line, staff turnover, and recognition
both in the community and through industry
awards. A successful newsroom is made up of
individuals who know their role and perform
it well for the success of the team.”
The SNA Editorial Conference will take
place on March 29-30 in Hershey, PA.
Held in tandem with America East,
a top-notch regional trade show for the
newspaper industry, this conference is a
must attend for editors who want to stay
informed and ahead of the curve. Topics
include building readership with research,
developing leaders from within the newsroom,
legal issues, a readership institute update,
online community journalism and more.
Details on page 11 and at
EDITORS OF THE YEAR
continued from page 1
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