Over the years, The Richmond County Daily Journal, much like any newspaper across America, has lost a fair number of subscribers. The reasons are many. People began consuming their news from cable television networks and, later, online platforms.
As the number of paid readers shrunk, most newspapers began closing ranks, or circling the wagons. People were laid off on both the advertising and editorial sides of the operation. While the bottomline has mandated such moves, the quality of the product suffered.
With fewer reporters, fewer local events were covered. Gannett newspapers introduced the idea of “hyperlocal” journalism as if it was a new approach to the business but, in reality, it was the same manner in which respectable newspapers had practiced the craft for decades.
Now more than ever, smaller newspaper staffs are striving to achieve more with less. At The Daily Journal, it is no different. At today’s full strength, The Daily Journal newsroom boasts a workforce of an editor/content manager, two full-time reporters and one part-time reporter; the newsroom is a ghost of what once was.
There is, however, nothing that can be done about those losses. Instead, the existing staff here is adopting a forward-focused approach that allows us to make the best of anything from today and anything beyond.
One of the key ingredients to a successful community newspaper is active engagement between staff and readers. In the golden days of journalism — before the advent of 24/7 cable news networks and smartphones — that usually meant stopping in the office to chat or writing a letter to the editor.
Walk-in traffic here at 105 E. Washington St. has been pleasantly surprising over the past two weeks. However, increasing active engagement with readers via letters to the editor, by email or snail mail, remains a work in progress. We think the number and quality of letters will increase once The Daily Journal resumes covering, in as thorough a manner as possible, the people and events of Richmond County.
Therefore, we propose establishing a readers’ advisory board. The board would meet with at least one member of the editorial staff here at the newspaper’s office once a month, probably in the early evening timeframe. Of course, if we are to have a board, we need members to sit on the board. That’s where you come in.
Who will sit on the board? Ideally, we have at least one representative from a variety of possible backgrounds — business, education, government, nonprofit, the arts, seniors, teens and perhaps other categories not listed here. The size of the board will be up to 13 members, but active participation will likely vary.
Members and newspaper staff will discuss ways we can shore up weaknesses and make existing strengths even better, in print and online.
Qualifications? Simply be interested in being a part of the solution. We’re not focusing on what did or did not happen in the past; we are moving forward with positive energy and a stable of willing, able and eager staff members who are ready to get to work covering our community.
If you want to learn more about the The Daily Journal’s Reader Advisory Board or be considered as a member, please send an email to Kevin Spradlin, editor and content manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 910-997-3111, ext. 13.