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Our Role and Responsibilities

Our reason for being is simply this: Communities with effective journalists, newspapers, and digital news organizations tend to be strong communities. We recognize our role and responsibility in protecting and leading these local news organizations, some of which are now more than 160 years old, vital to every person and institution that makes up the community served. 

Information essential to each community’s health flows through the circulatory system of journalism. Without local journalism, communities decline, become divisive and stagnate. With good local journalism, they are equipped to communicate, work together, grow and thrive. 

We are publishers first, and that is how we approach our work. Why is that important? Because we must first be organized to publish news and serve readers if we are to have a business. And we must have a successful underlying business for your community to have local journalism.

Much group ownership of local media is now publicly traded or controlled by private investors. History has shown us these institutions cannot survive under the control of owners with financial motives as the highest priority. Earnings per share and return on equity as primary goals wreck newspapers, plain and simple. 

How did we become a family of publishers? Throughout my career, and since I was a small child, it has been my great honor to be part of the “newspaper family.” I grew up inside the walls of The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, on the streets of town and the backroads of nine counties delivering newspapers. I delivered interoffice mail, wandered into the darkroom and accidentally exposed film because I wondered what was behind the little door with the blacked-out window. I was mothered and fathered and generally kept out of trouble by this wonderful family. My father was a hot-lead printer and an ad-alley compositor. He worked a lot, so I hung around. I learned to run machinery, talk the talk and drink the strong coffee that kept us moving late nights into the early hours of Sunday mornings. 

Loosely defined, this family is made up of journalists, marketers, manufacturing professionals, artists, logistics specialists, delivery carriers, financial and administrative support people who, in each 24-hour news cycle, come together in an imperfect but on-key symphony of deadlines, decisions, challenging, questioning, coding, reading, reporting, machinery, gears, belts, pulleys, plates, pallets, procedures, posting, polling and performing the daily and now hourly miracle of producing a unique product that serves countless noble interests, purposes, values and causes. That’s a mouthful and even more complex than it sounds. The product is made and remade constantly, never the same, always judged for depth, fairness, objectivity, completeness and accuracy. Want to do this? If so, you will learn quickly to depend on your newspaper family while relying on your maturity, attention to detail, thick skin and ability to practice objectivity and diplomacy at the highest levels. 

Why do I write all of this? Because it is a privilege to be part of this family and to be responsible for a small part of seeing that it carries on. Our company is now made up of nearly 2,000 of these wonderful people, newspaper family all of them. And, individually and collectively, we look forward to what is ahead. 

Has the evolution of this great industry been a challenge? Certainly. How about the evolution of retailing, which once supported newspapers but has disappeared from North America’s malls and shopping centers? For sure. And the evolution of technology, the internet, journalism and marketing itself? Absolutely. But let’s talk about that one. Technology has also been a blessing. We work with excellent journalists and marketers. Our people are among the best and brightest. We were built for this challenge. All this evolution did was make us better and give us more platforms to share our work. We have more readers and customers than ever: any time, place, or device.

With technology, digital marketing and journalism, and the stabilization of print, ours is again a growing industry, full of promise and possibilities. 

Some important things have stayed the same: human nature, for example. People want to know what is going on around them. Business owners still want to hear their cash registers, telephones, the little bell on the front door, and their online e-commerce transactions “ring.” Yes, we were built for this: new channels, new opportunities, no problem. 

Here is where we are today and where we plan to be going forward.

Our Primary Mission: The communities we serve, along with our industry, are challenged by the threats of retail and economic disruption, along with media fragmentation and misinformation. We serve as guides to efficient and effective marketing, trusted journalism and rewarding careers so our communities, businesses and the people who work with us can grow and thrive with a strong sense of purpose and resulting prosperity. Excellent community journalism is essential to excellent communities and quality of life. Our role and responsibility are to serve and build community. 

Our Journalism Mission: In the current era, unbiased and factual information can be challenging to find. Our journalists work to be trusted guides to readers, providing factual, informative and entertaining news and information to enhance the public conversation. Readers deserve to be informed so they can be actively involved in the improvement of the places they live. Moreover, our role is to hold the institutions of communities served accountable to the public trust.

Our Marketing Mission: Our marketing strategists work to be trusted guides to local businesses because business owners deserve expert guidance and resources so they can be confident they are investing at the right level with the right tools and tactics to meet their goals and grow their businesses. 

Our Leadership and Development Mission: Leaders in our company pledge and work to be trusted guides to our employees as they seek to develop themselves personally and professionally, and we work to match their level of effort with our own because our team members who work hard, achieve goals and help make our reputation deserve the opportunity to grow and achieve success in a career that is fulfilling and financially rewarding. 

Our Operating Mission: To pursue and operate with absolute efficiency by spending less than we take in, enabling full support of the efforts of our marketing strategists and journalists, to meet profitability standards that stabilize our future and allow us to invest time and money in the communities we serve because our communities deserve efficient and financially strong media organizations that will stand the tests of disruption, change and time while standing independent of outside influences.  

Our values and commitments are not new to us. We build on foundations put down by industry icons like Charles Marsh, Carmage Walls, Jim Boone, David Black and many others. We and the thousands of men and women who worked in their sphere of influence benefit from the blessing of their example and the challenge of carrying on their legacy. 

All in our organization accept that challenge and pledge to meet it with effort, ingenuity, integrity and commitment to earn a reputation worthy of our mentors and the communities and people we serve. 

Community journalism and marketing and the people joining this noble cause have a bright future. Our future will not be defined by outside influence, changes in technology, or other factors. We and we alone will shape the future of community journalism and its impact on communities. Our success will be a product of two things we control: our positive attitudes and willingness to give maximum effort toward our goals. 

It is clear to us we all bring various and important talents to our roles. Some are artists. Some are journalists. Some are marketing strategists. Some are dedicated practitioners of production, accounting, and other roles that make our success. All in this great newspaper family have one thing in common, one core talent. That is the ability to give effort. We pledge to give our best effort toward these crucial responsibilities. 

If you live in a community we serve, much is expected of you, too, and we need your help and support. In short, we humbly ask you to match our effort. We need you to entrust us with your marketing messages, subscribe to your local newspaper in print or digital format, be informed, and participate in improving these wonderful places we serve. We know we must earn and keep your trust. When we do, let’s lock arms and get to work. When we fall short, speak up. We promise to listen and learn. 

We are on this mission to improve the places we call home together. 

We will do our part. We will investigate, challenge, report, reflect, document, and always be blunt but constructive, and when merited, we will be our communities’ loudest cheerleaders. Together, we will one day look back on a job well done and know we made a difference. Each of you and our communities demand this of us and deserve no less. Want to be part of this? Please join us on this mission, and let’s get to work.