One of the ways news has been hollowed out is that much of what we read is not connected to much of anything that is real in our daily lives.
It’s only produced to meet the publisher’s need to get more clicks that earn a few pennies on an ad delivered from somewhere else and produced by someone who has no clue about the community.
But, for Free Press, we will measure our success differently and it will be of far greater value to our readers and sponsors in the short and long term.
In case you don’t know, much of programatic advertising you see online is paid per million clicks on the ad, not whether the advertiser is actually connecting with the community that sees the ad.
And in the case of a nonprofit newsroom reporting to a supporting foundation in another city, clicks become the measure of success as well.
So, in that world, a small, truly local publication like Free Press might seem to be at a serious disadvantage because of our limited reach compared to national or state publications.
But, that’s a framework that any truly local publication will actively reject not because it serves us, but because a click-bait system makes no sense for reporting truly local news.
The question to be asked by an authentically local publication is this: How many people are we helping to knit together in this community?
There is no substitute for the relationships formed by owners, editors, reporters and marketing reps all actually living and doing business in the city we report.
There is a fundamental knowledge of the heartbeat of the city at street-level that cannot be copied by someone who is helping to gentrify downtown San Francisco while making decisions on ad policies for Oklahoma City.
When Free Press reports the news, we report it not as smug, superior observers in another city or just passing through, but as those who live with and love the people we are reporting.
If I make an editorial decision to report something negative, I should know the people and the community enough that it hurts to run the story even when the news needs to be out there.
That’s the difference between crime porn pushed out as click bait or truly reporting the struggles of people in our community who get caught up in crime either as perpetrators or as victims.
It’s the difference between poverty porn published because the drama draws more clicks or reporting on people in our community who struggle to get out of poverty.
Now that is not impossible to do. Newspapers for the last several centuries, especially in small towns, have done it as a matter of course.
Like so many small-town newspapers, we will faithfully report the community we live in.
And, in turn, we will ask for support from this community’s businesses and people, too.
It’s a relationship, not a spreadsheet.
Our support should come from the people we know who run the businesses we frequent as we are living in the city we report.
And we will take pride in our relationships with those local businesses and individuals.
To say or imply that there is something dirty about local sponsorships and advertising is to imply that there is something dirty about our local businesses.
And, I just don’t believe that.
Free Press is here supporting this community by providing news written by people who live here and know the city.
Will you, the local business owner, support us? If you know Lennon Patton or me, speak up. If not, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
— Brett Dickerson, Founder-Editor