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Newspaper business centers on you, reader

Hey you, yes you, the one staring at me right now. I’d like to welcome you to the newspaper business.

You’ve probably never thought about it before, but the newspaper you are reading represents the work of a group of business people, and you’re a member of the board of directors.

But newspapers aren’t a typical business. Newspapers, particularly community newspapers like the one you’re reading, are so much more.

Newspapers bind together communities. From the basics of informing and entertaining citizens (and not all the entertainment comes from our typos and grammatical goofs) to holding government accountable to taxpayers, community newspapers remain vital.

That cohesive value is because of one single reason — you, dear reader.

You’re the reason this newspaper exists as it has for nearly 150 years, and you’re the reason why I believe it will be here for another 150 years, too.

Reporters write for you; photographers take pictures for you; and advertising salespeople try to catch your attention so local businesses can entice you to buy their goods and services.

The newspaper business centers on you.

Many people are under the misconception that the entire newspaper industry is going the way of typewriters and wagon wheels. That’s based on the decisions a few large newspapers are making, including the New Orleans Times-Picayune, to cut back their print editions, focusing their future on digital options.

Such moves are upsetting to long-time readers.

Clearly that newspaper’s management felt like they had to make a drastic decision.

From the comfort both distance and ignorance of their financial situation brings, the decision certainly looks as if based on a shift in their purpose. Perhaps they’re putting their profits ahead of their products and the people they serve.

Those four Ps — people, products, purpose and profits — make up a four-legged stool on which any good newspaper rests. To remain stable, each has to be in constant balance.

The biggest secrets to keeping those in balance include remaining humble, remembering all that we do is for our readers and staying rooted in God’s word by treating others as we’d want to be treated.

Fortunately local readers here in Natchez have no worries. The Natchez Democrat is not going anywhere anytime soon.

We’re far from dying. In fact, earlier this year, a national research company found more than three out of four local residents read us each week — more locals than have a Facebook account.

Our future is bright, if we serve customers well, but don’t just take my word for it.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently purchased 63 community newspapers. Buffett, no slouch in business, saw their value was strong.

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” Buffett said.

Buffett gets it.

The Natchez Democrat succeeds when residents care about their community.

Large city newspapers aren’t struggling because of a fundamental problem with newspapers; they’re struggling with disconnection from their readers.

Comparing community newspapers to big-city ones is like comparing community banks to the international banks that got into so much trouble a couple of years ago.

United Mississippi Bank and Concordia Bank and Trust, for example, never got within 100 miles of the subprime mortgages that caused problems at big banks.

The local banks know their customers and their communities and never lost their connection, or their trust.

All banks are not created equally; neither are all newspapers.

I’d love to hear from you about what you think about your newspaper, how we can improve it and, perhaps, why the daily newspaper is an important part of your life.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.