As we continue to develop our new home (see progress here), Pete and I have been thinking a lot about advertising, news, comments and generally our hopes for RacinePost's future. In a simple sense, our hope is RacinePost continues to add readers, expand coverage and become a successful little business. Soon we'll be rolling out a new advertising rate card, new sections for stories and several additional features we hope will connect with readers while making our operation more efficient and robust.
But there's another aspect to RacinePost I'd like to do a better job of sharing. We really do exist to support and help the Racine area community. Our top priority is to celebrate local success by publishing accomplishments, promoting local businesses, covering interesting stories and showcasing the people, places and events that make Racinians proud. But we're not big enough (at least not yet) to do it on our own. We need your help.
But before I get into asking a favor, a diversion on local media. It seems a community news source (be it a paper, radio station, website, magazine, TV station) is only as useful as its ability to inform and connect its readers. If RacinePost isn't reporting timely, helpful material for people in the Racine area there's no reason for the site to exist. Anything else is simply stealing for personal gain, which is not a sustainable model for a business that relies heavily on public participation for support.
For example, publishers around the country are making money publishing the mugshots of people arrested in their community. Like pornography, it's popular, lucrative and entirely legal (even without the people arrested having gone to trial, or even having been charged). But also like pornography it's bankrupt of common decency and adds little to the community (other than reinforcing negative stereotypes and scaring people away).
This is a different view than almost all media companies, which exist to make money first, second and third. Supporting community may fall within their Top 50 priorities, but that's not entirely clear.
Here's an example. While I worked for the JT, a circulation director would sit in on story planning meetings and direct us to make murders, fires, robberies and any other big crime story the top story on the front page. Why? Because they'd sell a few hundred more copies of papers in stores and out of paper boxes. While I'm not longer on the inside, little from the outside appears to have changed at the JT in the past two years. (To be fair, many people at the JT see the same problems I'm describing and would like to see changes. But the newspaper culture, which dates back decades, is simply too strong for anyone to re-wire.)
RacinePost is trying a different approach. We're all for making money, but it's not our reason for existence. We're much, much more interested in doing everything we can to help local businesses, organizations, events and people succeed. Our goal is to tell as many people as possible about the great, interesting, important and exciting things happening in the Racine area. If you're a business, we want to know about every event, product, story and success you have. If you're a nonprofit, we want to know what you need to continue doing your work. It's the same for every church, school, group, club, sports league, etc., etc.
Here's where we need your help. If you share interesting, wonderful stories with us, we can share them with thousands of people, who hopefully will pass the word on to thousands of more people. Hopefully, if we stick at this long enough, these are the stories that will become the "news of the day" - and the foundation for new ideas, growth and success to emerge.
Let me end with specifics. If you know any place where people are having fun, we'd love to hear about it. If you know a business that is doing impressive work, please, let us know. If you know of an upcoming event that people should attend, send it over. If you know a local story that will inspire others, let's share it together.
I'll come back to this theme from time to time, but if you'd like to start today, our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll do everything we can to include your stories on the site.