I was recently questioned why we had chosen this point in time to enhance the pages of our newspapers with expanded coverage, increasing employment by adding new positions to the staff and begin taking strong editorial positions on local issues. The answer is both simple and complicated.
It wasn't a matter of just waking up one day with a revelation nor was it done on a whim. We had been looking for several years at our editorial staff makeup and whether our readers would be better served operating from two independent news bureaus in Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga or to maintain the one centralized site in Elizabethtown with the bureaus under tighter control from the central office. A year earlier, we had begun investigating the former but eventually settled on the latter. Too many chiefs in the kitchen, or in this case editors in the newsroom, caused far too many variances and not sufficient enough teamwork. The independence we allowed wasn't producing the end result we had hoped it would.
During the last several years, ours, like most businesses, had to cut spending to match the reduction in income due to the economy. We saw our profits fall off significantly, but had done our best to maintain continuity with our staff and publications. At the same time the economy was faltering, the newspaper industry was under attack as a business model that was no longer relevant in today's high-tech world. Some high profile paid circulation newspapers were folding, others going into Chapter 11, thus feeding the theory noted above. While free papers like ours had generally been discounted by our paid brethren during their heydays, as pretty much insignificant products, the value of ultra-local content is now being seen in a new light, something we had always valued as our core strength.
Local and national businesses cut back on advertising expenditures as a means of reducing expenses and looked for more inexpensive ways to market themselves without much success. We knew the value of the services we provide, the unmatched reach of our 70,000-plus total market saturation and each day we heard the concerns of many area businesses who were struggling to keep their doors open.
So do you sit back, keep a tight grip on your expenses and wait for someone or something to initiate spending in the market? Or you do reach a point where you say to yourself, "Are we doing everything possible to help ourselves and the business community to pull out of this economic funk?"
Enough was enough. We believe we have a role to play in getting our North Country economy back on track, and it was time to open up our tight grip on expenses and start re-investing in our publications to prove their worth to both the business community and the community at large.
No other medium reaches the entire population without some associated costs or limits to their distribution methods. Paid newspapers, TV, radio, Internet, smart phones/mobile all require an investment on your part or have limited reach. We needed to open our pages, broaden our scope of coverage, get the community excited about itself and invite others to join us by once again promoting their valuable services.
Until the region gets its collective cash flowing, we will not be able to address the employment issues here, and we will not be attractive to outside investors who want to locate their businesses here. Only a stimulated business economy within the North Country can trigger the return to growing employment and provide services to industrial businesses looking to our area.
We can't always look to our neighbors to the north in Canada or the state and federal governments to be the foundations of our community. We've learned from prior experiences that those can be short lived and when they falter, if our local economic base isn't strong, we can't be self sustaining. We need local residences spending money locally, and that will not happen when we outsource local employment nor will it happen when we shop outside the area we call home. The few dollars you might save are short sided if you expect a strong local economy.
In a recent letter to the editor that appeared in the Press-Republican, an individual was lamenting about the lack of local\New York news coverage on WPTZ-TV and the fact that in his tracking of stories the coverage was heavily slanted toward the Vermont region of their coverage area. Businesses must support those who are supporting them. WPTZ may be located here in New York, but they have to consider where their advertising support and viewers come from. Clearly Vermont provides them with a greater opportunity for financial support than does this side of the lake. If that were not the case, you would not see such an imbalance. It's obvious where they see the value and the opportunities.
We can't do it by ourselves, but to date we've been reinforced by many who feel as we do that enough is enough. It's time to restore the local economy and get dollars flowing once again. Businesses need to do more than be open for business. If they want to compete and win back customers who may have strayed recently, they must offer customers improved product selection and deals, as Don Corleone from the Godfather liked to say, "Make them an offer they can't refuse," and world class service.
I invite any local business who needs and wants to get their message out into the public to work with us as well as other media outlets. People respond when they are confident in their own financial future, and the business community needs to be sending a signal of confidence to consumers. Confidence that the local economy is once again open for business and vibrant. Confidence that together we can make the local buying experience worth the time and money spent. The time for hunkering down in the bunker has passed. Optimism must once again rule the day as we look to a promising future in our North Country economy.
Dan Alexander is publisher and owner of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.