By C.L. Harmon
Most of you don’t know the struggles this paper has fought to stay in business since its inception. This is simply because I haven’t told you. I have recently been talking with a friend about my frustrations concerning certain aspects of this paper and he gave me the advice that maybe I should tell you about those frustrations. I will start by telling you that I am emotionally connected to this paper. In part, because it’s survival for my financial security. But more than that, it’s something I believe in.I am passionate about informing people of the world around them. I have written several editorials about government transparency and the people’s right to know because I feel so strongly in the belief that knowledge is power and that power belongs to the people. In addition, I believe that all people are important, their lives matter and that what they accomplish should be recognized. The student that rises an hour earlier every day to care for an animal in all types of weather for months and then wins a ribbon at the fair – is important. The community group that raises money for schools or the less fortunate is important, the city manager that is honored for his contributions to a community is important
The list goes on and on. Many of these accomplishments are not important to the larger news sources and without a local paper to spotlight them, they simply become lost to the public. Although, I knew this endeavor, would not make me rich, I hoped it would provide a living and I feel too that some things are more valuable than any amount of money. Having said that, it is also true that revenue is how this and any paper maintains itself. As you know this paper is free. I chose not to charge for a couple of reasons. First, not everyone has extra change to buy a paper. Sadly, there are people that poor and I want everyone to have access. Secondly, I feel that those who buy ads should be given the opportunity to have their ads seen by all.
I see this paper as an investment. Actually, you are my investment and I am yours. Each and everyone of you are a tiny shareholder in a community company that is dependent on the efforts of each of us. And like any investment, it fluctuates in value depending on what is happening.
As a shareholder, what do you do when the company is in trouble or simply needs to grow in order to increase in worth? Before answering, first you have to decide what is the investment worth to you. Is it worth putting more into it or simply selling it off? Consider this as an example. As a member of any community, schools are a concern. When that school system needs to expand or upgrade, you can vote to pass a school bond. If keeping the schools functioning properly is a community investment you feel is worthy, then you vote to pass a school bond.
The same principle applies to this paper and all businesses. If a community has a movie theatre and only ten percent of the population patronize it, then the theatre is probably going to close. Maybe the prices were too high or the theatre was not very clean. Whatever the reason, the end result is that the community loses a movie theatre, a local business, a tax revenue source and is left with a void.
Maybe the business was simply not honest with its community. Perhaps if the business would have explained to the public that its overhead was too high and in order to keep the doors open, it had to raise prices and cut back on cleaning services, they could have reached the collective consciousness of the public. Honesty is, after all, the best policy and it is often very humbling. As a Christian, I believe that humility is the first step in getting the help one needs to move forward. So I humbly ask for your assistance in maintaining this paper. I mentioned struggles at the beginning of this article. If I may, I would like to talk about a few of those. This paper has no investors, is not owned by a multi-corporate conglomerate, with deep pockets, does not have a building with a sign displaying its name or a staff that handles billing, distribution, advertising, copy, research division or any of the many other aspects of owning and running a newspaper. There is only me, a part-time ad manager and a few very much appreciated individuals who submit materials.
Those who advertise are the only reason this paper survives. There are no legals to run that provide revenue because the state does not consider this paper to meet legal criteria. There are no mass advertising campaigns from the Oklahoma Press Association to bring in additional revenue as I was denied admittance when asked to join. There is only my desire to keep this paper going that keeps it on the stands. As a community company, we have been able to survive over four years, compete with another newspaper that eventually pulled out after a few years, keep content local instead of material that none of you care to read and do so at no cost to you for the paper. And done all of this with less than 30 percent of the local businesses purchasing advertising.
But now the newspaper needs help. Although it may seem insignificant, every little purchase helps. Obituaries, thank you notes, birth, wedding and anniversary announcements, classified ads and business display advertising all go a long way in keeping this paper functioning and its ability to grow. Each and everyone of these purchases is an investment in this and any newspaper. Each and every one increases the value of the paper, to not only the community as a whole, but to the individuals who read it.
The real question I guess is what is this investment worth. I can humble myself and ask for help because I know I can’t continue to sustain a newspaper without it. But the ultimate decision is yours, not mine. The paper is really yours, I just run it. I can only know the value of it to you by the support you give it. I don’t know if telling you the truth is a sign of weakness or not, but I know that I do not wish to become a movie theatre that could have remained a part of the community if only it would have explained its position.
For those advertisers and individuals who have provided for this paper, you are the lead story in every edition. Your contributions are seen in the pages of every edition and in the services you provide every day. I hope every reader thanks you for that support.
Any comments about your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.
For What It’s Worth
By C.L. Harmon