Be the Journalism You Want to See

What a cool story:

Eight months ago, Mr. Sprengelmeyer, 42, worked as the sole Washington correspondent forThe Rocky Mountain News, the Denver newspaper that went out of business in February, but his job these days is a far cry from the Senate press gallery.

August, he embarked on a new life in this isolated little town as
owner, publisher, editor, primary writer and sometime ad salesman,
photographer and deliverer of the weekly Guadalupe County Communicator,
circulation about 2,000.

“I covered the war in Iraq and the
presidential campaign, and I knew I was never going to top that, even
if I found another reporting job,” he said, sitting on a battered chair
in his single-story storefront space. “I just wanted a completely new

Of the thousands of paths taken by journalists who
have been cast off by shrinking metropolitan newspapers, Mr.
Sprengelmeyer’s is one of the more unusual, and one of the more
hopeful. While bringing some big-city professionalism to a distinctly
small-time operation, he says he is making enough money to support
himself, and he has been able to assign some freelance work to a few
underemployed former colleagues.


Sales of The Communicator are up, in part because of eight sidewalk
boxes that Mr. Sprengelmeyer bought from The Rocky and posted around
Santa Rosa. He will not say how much money the paper makes, but says it
is more than enough to support him, and he has visions of expanding to
two days a week.

“If a house burns down, everybody here knows it,
saw it, knew the people, probably hugged them, but they still want to
read about it in a paper that comes out four days later,” he said.

ViaGreg Palmer.


4 thoughts on “Be the Journalism You Want to See

  1. i spent time with a WI small town paper guy. Crandon, WI and right after the shootings up there. his old storefront paper is a pinting shop and internets for rent as well. he’s comfortable and knows everybody.

  2. Weekly newspapering is doing okay. Readers are loyal and often feel they’re part of the news process. We’d sometimes run up to four pages of letters to the editor, and folks seemed to enjoy the give and take. A lot. Our policy was to print every letter that met our criteria (printed weekly on the letters page).
    The problem weeklies face is an almost absolute advertising boycott by large national firms. In our town, we got accused quite often of supporting this or that commercial development because we’d make lots of advertising dollars off the new Target, Lowes, or Meijer stores. In reality, we supported the development because of its commercial real estate tax value to local schools, parks, and other units of government, not to mention sales tax revenues for municipal government. That’s because none of those national retailers ever advertised in our papers, with the notable exception of our help wanted classifieds. And, of course, they all wanted coverage of their grand openings, employee promotions, and the like. We’d usually do a small story on their grand opening, most often consisting of a line ’em up, shoot ’em down ribbon cutting photo. And we’d write stories about local folks who were promoted. But if they wanted a story about some new product line they were offering we’d tell them to buy an ad. Which they never did, of course.
    But as long as a community still has a fair commercial base outside national retailers, it’s more than possible to make a fair living in weeklies. It’s being done all over the country with a lot of really good journalism being done, too. We used to consider our competition the local daily, until they were bought out by a big chain and were turned into even worse shit than they were before. We’d beat them regularly with good stories, too, even though they printed seven issues to every one of ours. AND they got all those goddamned big box ads, too.
    Somehow when everyone thinks of journalism they think WaPo or NYT. But the news people really need (Where are their property tax dollars going? What’s the deal with the police chief who was fired? How will the school district handle those new students?) in their everyday lives comes most often from their local weekly. The journalism is every bit as professional; often a lot moreso. And the writing is every bit as good in many cases. So newspapers (good ones) will survive; not sure dailies will, though.

  3. Well, yeah. Live and local (or as close to live as possible) and local still thrives.
    Ain’t gonna pay anybody six figures, but you know what? Six figures is for wimps.
    Classifieds still sell, people still care how the football team did, Mom & Dad still want wedding and engagement photos on the “Lifestyles” page … and a community calendar’s needed.

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