Last Thursday morning, like just over 500 times once each week going back 10 years, I repeated what has become a joyous habit, reading Plant City’s hometown newspaper. Now to be honest I have missed being on the day of distribution a time or two, perhaps due to vacation or travel. But I’ve read every issue of the Plant City Observer and I am very proud of it.
Being a weekly paper with editorial “put to bed” times 36 hours or so ahead of print, sometimes there are current event moments that miss their window of coverage. And thus, there are times when I must begrudgingly appreciate the speed of social media, or the good old word of mouth grapevine of our town. But just as often, or likely more so, I encounter a sense of calling BS on some of the negativity or downright falsehood often prevalent on what I call farcebook, or twiddle-D, etc. Therefore, I urge people to read and interact with our local newspaper when they want to cut through the hysteria and know some facts.
The duty of journalism to write facts and mostly eliminate any agenda is in some ways made easier for the Plant City Observer because our focus is only to report hyper-local events and activities, rather than save the world, create utopia, or raise awareness of politically correct nonsense. This duty is something the editorial staff at The Plant City Observer takes very seriously. Even so, sometimes the passion and opinion of our staff can peek through but compared to most major media outlets who pretended to serve our community (while often bashing it) we stand tall. They inspired me to help create a true hometown newspaper ten years ago, and I believe we not only whipped ‘em, but are better than they were. I am pleased with and appreciative of our Plant City paper because we cover the hyper-local news which many times would receive no other honest coverage. And it matters.
Our advertisers have learned that being in our paper works for them. Whether it is keeping their brand vibrant and visible to future customers, or communicating with their existing ones, there is a great deal of pride for us when we hear feedback on how paying to advertise in our paper is effective. Many people know it works, as indicated by how often some ask for us to publish for free their upcoming events (smile). As best we can we leave some comp space for upcoming charity or community events, but nobody can produce, print, and distribute almost 100 million pages of newspaper for a decade without some revenue, so we VERY much appreciate our paid advertisers.
10 years ago, many people, both in the industry and outside of it, were predicting the doom of small-town print newspapers. The rarity of success, and the dedication required from the people behind your paper make this 10-year anniversary especially poignant for me. Often the people who dedicate themselves to doing the work of reporting and producing a paper are a special kind of crazy, but like a romantic Don Quixote notion I’ve been guilty of a time or two, they are my kind of crazy. And I hope Plant City at large appreciates them all. If you know one, buy their lunch sometime, or drop them a message of encouragement. To do this work is a calling.
10 years ago, was our first issue, and I still have every one of that first year’s run in an ‘old’ distribution box in a corner of my office’s waiting area. It is a sort of a pride corner of mementos from some things I’ve worked on, and I like to take out that first issue and read it about once a year. I have this sappy notion that perhaps the mother of the kid pictured within has that newspaper clipping framed on her wall. Or the retiring fire chief kept a copy of our coverage on his pride wall at home. Newspapers have that ability like no computer screen or cell phone can deliver.
Penultimately I would offer to our readers a hope that you all would keep in mind how fragile and precious is a hometown newspaper; hyper-local reporting and writing for and by those who live here, raise their children here, dine out here, and drink from the well that journalism can poison if it is careless or malicious. In that hope where I appreciate you all is the ever-present call to you for your support in readership, discussion, your checkbooks on occasion, and your being a part of Plant City’s ongoing stories.
Lastly, to thank everyone who has helped build and pull this wagon so far would be dangerous, dramatic, ineffective, and worst of all dull. You know who you are, and you all have my appreciation. Here’s to the future of the Plant City Observer, Your Hometown Newspaper.
– Ed Verner