Editor’s note: The headline is Rollie Atkinson’s own slogan. Atkinson, publisher of the Sonoma West Publishers in Healdsburg, gave the Town Crier permission to reprint this editorial published in the Healdsburg Tribune. I couldn’t have said it better.
Did you have your cup of coffee this morning on your way to work? How much did it cost? A buck, $1.50, two dollars? And, to think a cup of java or “joe” used to cost two bits (25 cents) not that long ago.
Is there anything you can buy for just a couple of quarters anymore? Well, how about this newspaper? Fifty cents for all this local news, grocery ads, school announcements, events and business calendar and all these words, ink and paper? How could that only cost 50 cents?
We’re glad you asked. Now we’ll tell you how we do it. First of all, subscription prices only pay for the cost of delivery. All of our other essential revenue comes from selling advertising. We hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but we don’t charge for the news, except for the 50-cent cover charge. That means we don’t charge to send a reporter to a meeting. There is no photographer’s fee for publishing all those local youth sports photos, ribbon cuttings and breaking news images on the front page. We print dozens of local press releases in the newspaper every week for free and we publish items like local obituaries, police logs, weather charts and government updates that are not available anywhere else — at any price.
Our editors and other staff often listen to as many citizen complaints as does the mayor, police chief or school principal. We think listening to our readers is a big part of our job. First we listen, then we tell the story. No extra charge.
As you might imagine, we are extremely grateful for all the local advertising support we continue to receive. We keep the presses rolling and the local news flowing thanks to a very old business formula — paid advertising. Ads are a form of news, too. The butcher’s special at the grocery store is a big weekly headline for us. And, so is the shopping specials at the local hardware store and other local shops. For instance, it’s holiday shopping season right now and our local advertisers are beginning to offer some great gift giving ideas.
For the benefit of more than just this local newspaper, please don’t take your shopping money out of town. Support our advertisers who support you, local jobs, our schools and our charities. They pay local taxes.
Truth be told, we never have enough paid advertising for the week’s newspaper and we always find more news around town than we have space to print it. How many pages we print each week is determined by how many ads we sell. Ink, paper and postage cost real money. But the real expense at newspapers is the people who gather the news, report it and hold themselves to a very high standard of credibility, accuracy, accountability and independence.
Newspapers are one of the most backwards business enterprises there is. First, we don’t charge for more than 80 percent of what we do. We’re like a restaurant that gives free food away or a gas station that gives free refills. Stranger than that, we absolutely never let our advertisers tell us what news to print or not to print. This newspaper may get its revenues from advertising but it gets its value from being a trustworthy news source. Our reputation is not for sale.
We are writing about all this because questions about our newspapers are brought to our attention almost every day in casual conversation with our readers. We are asked what else can be done to keep the local newspaper open for business and in print.
We have a simple reply — please support our local advertisers and encourage more local businesses to join them in these pages. We’ll take care of the rest. Thank you.