‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ revisited

By Jack and Becky Clark


Town Crier readers began stepping to the plate the very day after we printed the article “Does the Town Crier have a future?” in last week’s newspaper. This very much reminds us of the final scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the classic 1946 Frank Capra fantasy Christmas film starring Jimmy Stewart, wherein the people of Bedford Falls pitch in to save the town’s Building & Loan.

But this is greater — this is real. What a great start!

Idyllwild Town Crier Memberships

Saving the Town Crier for our Community

(21 Members as of Aug. 21, 2017)

Angels — (2) Other amount, unlimited above $1,000 annually:  Nancy Borchers; Anonymous (1);

Heroes — (1) $1,000 annually:  Anonymous (1);

Patrons — (-) $500 annually:  - None yet.

Sponsors — (6) $250 annually: Anne Bleaden; The Family Business (Craig & Janice Coopersmith); Robert & Paula Hetzler; Nanci & Ben Killingsworth; Scott & Martha Schroeder; Kay Wanner & Charlie Wix

Supporting Readers — (12) $100 annually:  Albert Bates; Steve Chadwick; Greg & Nancy Dunlap; Don “Jac” & Mimi Jacaruso; Donna Kennedy & William Linehan; Kathryn & George Reeves; Richard Schnetzer; Arthur Tobias; Bill Waring; Jim Wise; James Wymer; Anonymous (1)

Thank you all!!

Please remember that the Town Crier’s weekly news meeting is open to the entire public. Some readers have been regularly attending and contributing for years. The meetings are at the Town Crier office at 54405 North Circle Drive, each Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. (unless Monday is a holiday, then it meets at the same time Thursday).

In case you missed it, the following is an updated version of the original article published in last-week’s paper:

Does the Town
Crier have a future?

Our Readers must decide

The following was originally published Aug. 17, 2017 and updated Aug. 22.

On June 28, 2013, our small, close corporation purchased the Town Crier, which had not made any money during the previous four and one-half years. We had one objective: to save the newspaper on our Hill. We could not imagine our community without one. Three weeks later our online coverage of the Mountain Fire for Hill evacuees underscored that point.

What is a “newspaper”? A newspaper is a community watchdog that publishes the bad with the good. It warns of danger, advises of opportunity, challenges authority, praises accomplishment, investigates irregularity, marvels at art, exposes abuse, celebrates life and publishes its readers’ letters. If a publication doesn’t do all of these things, it may be something else, but it’s not a newspaper.

Why do we feel our Hill needs a newspaper? Well, to do all of those things we just mentioned above, but particularly because we have nine local public boards that are funded by our tax dollars, and they make decisions and recommendations as to how to spend even more of our tax monies — and what public services we get for them.

These nine boards are monitored by nobody but the Town Crier.

The old, traditional model for a community newspaper was to publish the news, sign up readers for subscriptions and sell advertising to local businesses. But subscriptions themselves never provide much revenue beyond paying for the postage to mail them out. A traditional community newspaper survives on advertising by local businesses.

When we began operating the Town Crier four years ago, it did not have enough business advertising to survive. So we tried a series of incentives in an attempt to attract advertising: We slashed our advertising prices by 25 percent, we offered full-color ads at no additional price, we tried a promotional magazine, we introduced contests and new columns and improved our games, and our office remained open seven days a week to serve the needs of visitors to our Hill, hoping that those visitors would increase business for our advertisers.

We tried “bundling” advertising in our various publications, providing more discounts for advertising in more than one publication. We changed printing companies and went to a broadsheet size because we knew it would produce a more reliable, better-quality newspaper with consistently sharper, more-colorful photos and ads, which it did. Seven months ago, we made the Town Crier “free on the Hill” with free issues in each Hill mailbox, and the paper’s circulation went from about 2,350 to about 5,500 — more than 230 percent of what it had been previously — which meant more than twice as many eyes on our advertisers’ ads.

We distributed Town Crier publications at more than 60 locations around town which resulted in thousands more Town Crier newspapers, Explore Idyllwild Directories and Explore Idyllwild Maps in the hands of Hill visitors than ever before. We published the Town Crier’s actual distribution and circulation numbers on page A4 every week, and we offered to share with potential advertisers the detailed records of our increased circulation.

We even made direct appeals to local businesses’ civic spirit, asking them to support the Town Crier for the benefit of our community, growing their businesses through advertising at the same time.

Although these efforts helped somewhat, they did not nearly produce the needed level of advertising from our local businesses. Some businesses say they can’t afford to advertise (?), others say they don’t need to advertise (!), and some give no explanation at all. But, whatever the reason, the traditional newspaper model does not work on our Hill anymore. So we must try something different.

So, beginning with the issue of Sept. 7, we can no longer provide the Town Crier free to Hill mailboxes.

We both are volunteers at the Town Crier, serving these years with no compensation. That was fine for us, but it means that when we retire, the Town Crier will retire with us, since nobody likely would want to acquire a newspaper that is viable only if the editor, proofreader, pickup/distribution man, light-duty handyman and occasional lawyer all are willing to work for free. And since Jack is 72, our retirement will be soon — not likely much later than this time next year; likely sooner than that. Our goal now is to quickly make the Town Crier financially viable so we can pass it on to other publishers wishing to operate a real newspaper for our Hill.

And the truly major difference we must make is to our funding:

We now realize that Town Crier support is going to have to come from those who value us most — our readers. And our readers frequently tell us that they do not want an online-only newspaper; they still want a real ink-on-paper newspaper, too.

We have received many “thank yous” and favorable comments from our readers who really do appreciate what the Town Crier is doing for our community. During the past 16 to 18 months alone, the Town Crier’s investigative journalism produced several articles revealing important information being misrepresented and/or concealed by our local governmental boards. Our readers let us know our journalism was appreciated.

So, we are now making a last effort to keep the Town Crier serving our community: We are appealing to our readers to save the newspaper with Memberships at five levels of support: Sustaining Readers, Sponsors, Patrons, Heroes and Angels, depending upon what you feel you can afford to keep the Town Crier benefiting our community. (We realize that not everyone can afford to be a member even if they want to be, so a number of free papers still will be available on the Hill.)

So, please take stock of your feelings about the value of the Town Crier and your ability and willingness to contribute to save it for our community. The Membership Application that follows this article will explain how you can help. We will routinely publish the results of this ongoing Membership drive in the Town Crier, so you can see how it is progressing.

Thanks to our readers for your attention, and for all your well wishes and support over the years.

We also thank those businesses who have supported the Town Crier with their advertising and continue to do so; we wish there were more of you.

We both feel enormously happy to have been able to give our Hill a real community newspaper during the past four years.

With our great appreciation and thanks.


  1. A great start to be sure. Whether it be a restaurant or a newspaper, we get what we demand by voting with our dollars. We have courageous business owners here such as the TownCrier and the Rustic Theater serving up quality for the community. QUALITY, there’s the rub! Idyllwild insists upon hot dogs, ice cream cones, and gossip by word of mouth, junk food of the mind. Corruption? It goes on and on with or without the newspaper and will continue unabated. The various agencies up here are underappreciated hence highly corruptible. The New York Times and Washington Post are begging for subscribers. There was a time when I could get New York Times delivery here. Not any more. We will not support the greatest newspaper in the world, what chance has the TownCrier?
    We have generations who get their news from their phones in online headline form (or Fox and CNN) and care not about its authenticity. Where do you think the cable news shows and radio hosts get their news? NEWSPAPERS; those that are left (or right). Is Idyllwild exceptional? Nope. So with no capable local police force, no newspaper, a bunch of churches, and corruptible agencies, as proven by the public record, we are ripe for chaos. Maybe the real estate people and churches should run the town openly and publish a newsletter. After all, they’re more invested than any other groups. Thanks for the service TownCrier!

  2. Town Crier staff:
    All businesses have a life cycle.
    Inception, design, development, peak, plateau, decline, exit.
    The mortality rate for businesses is very high. How many business do you know that have been around for 100 years? 125 years? 200 years?
    Wells Fargo’s logo is a horse drawn stage coach.
    Ford was a T-model car.

    To remain viable, a business must innovate, adapt, pivot, look for opportunities, find new customers, develop new products.

    My suggestion is to expand outside the narrow focus of reporting week old news on costly and obsolete printed paper, to an aging demographic that is replaced by a digital generation in their young 40s and 50s. (Yea, 45 years young)

    The Town Crier took the angle of investigative journalism, that’s fine, but a small town has some reportable scandals but not enough to cover the reporting cost.

    I recommend that the TC define a new mission statement.
    Possible ideas: Marketing advertising strategies that have the result of boosting local business sales. Most of the lodging businesses use online ad baits like groupon, trip advisor, and most of the restaurants depend on yelp and OpenTable. The TownCrier should be the one-stop for all my Idyllwild info needs.

    That business area is vacant, so local businesses outsource that service to external digital entities to fill that needed gap.

    Everyone visiting from the lowlands is aware of Uber, Amazon Prime, and zagat, while the TownCrier (while charming) is narrow minded on the obsolete paper and ink.

    You know the town of Hemet, and Banning? Mr Banning (large stage coach rich man) used to own Catalina island, and refused to accept and adopt automobile transportation. Well he lost his business, lost his fortune and lost his island.

    Your long term business survival strategy cannot be begging for pity donation funds from nostalgic aging community.

    Decipher the behavior habits of the Millennial 20-something creatures, and market to them. And since Idyllwild has a majority of aging population, the TC will need to target, attract and lure that new PCT hikers generation by way of ads, hiking maps and conditions, food and lodging coupons, permits coordination, even info to coordinate their transportation by way of group shuttles from the lowlands up to the hill as well as to and from trailhead when they stop by to resupply.

    Look into PCT Hikers websites, leverage the Facebook and twitter forums.

    Cross advertise. Find new customers. Know your customers behavior.

    ADD VALUE. Not simply report last week’s news and while cute, the news from 75 years ago is only cute, but has no return on investment.

    Good luck,
    I wish you success.

  3. Every week I see where it says we want the paper to be successful so that the new younger generation can continue the newspaper? That sounds to me like the owners are still waiting to get out of the business. You say you don’t make a profit. Is the membership so it looks like the paper it’s profitable so it can be sold or are you going to give it to someone.