“The greatest influence over content was a necessity–they had holes to fill on every page and jammed in any vaguely newsworthy string of words, provided it didn’t include expletives, which they were apparently saving for their own use around the office.” Tom Rachman, The Imperfectionists
Next week, this blog, Main Street Rocky Mount, will be celebrating its 2nd anniversary. If there is one thing I have learned in the time I’ve been publishing, Rocky Mount DESERVES and NEEDS a newspaper that promotes a positive approach every day to the community. There is no need for filling the holes in the paper with people we don’t know, with stories that aren’t ours. Perhaps reporting what the local High School football teams have for breakfast on game day is a step too far, (Click Here for Part I) but I am certain that growing the paper’s circulation, which attracts advertising, will only happen by rethinking the content of the Telegram. We need to expand our weekly dedicated columns to re-engage readers because it is OUR area news, about OUR area neighbors, all speaking to the stability of the community. We need a reinvigorated newspaper that helps create a positive image that will encourage new people to move here, entice new businesses, and provide a rationale to spend money here rather than elsewhere.
Let’s start with a cardinal rule…the front page will always shine the best light on the community. There is nothing wrong with publishing a Telegram that is unabashedly proud of the people, places, and the accomplishments of its readers and advertisers. We need columns that everyone looks forward to reading that appear at least once a week if not daily. Let’s feature our historic district neighborhoods, our architecture, the residents past and present who have interesting stories to share. We need a column that educates the public about the benefits of preservation. A daily business column that pays tribute to our reliable long time businesses and gives expanded coverage on everything new. Our organizations should not have to rely on submitting a single photograph with a bit of explanation, but a regular column that touts their good works, the significant contributions they make every day. There are endless cultural items for a column on the arts, theater, and music. We need a restaurant column now, a Mill column, a great real estate column that tells a story of the property for sale, its architectural significance, its place in the neighborhood. What about a column that is written by and for high school students? I could go on….It isn’t that today’s newspaper doesn’t touch on the things I’ve mentioned, but it all gets lost, surrounded by excess filler that is of no interest to us. Our local sense of place and character has to fight its way onto people’s radar screen. People are no longer reading newspapers for their political content, so fed up with bias and unreliability, so I contend that emphasis on local content, with an eye on putting our best foot forward, will be good for what ails the Telegram and be invaluable to the community.
One last thing….We need to get a grip on the impact our crime reporting has. It has definitely improved, keeping that news off the front page, but let’s always report it further back in the paper in the same place, easily found for those who read such things. We have enough problems with people who are whistling an unexamined old tune about the ”dangerous’ downtown, in spite of statistics to prove otherwise. It really isn’t necessary to shoot ourselves in the foot every time bad people do bad things. Rocky Mount NEEDS a renewed partnership with their newspaper sharing a common mission. You help us tell a positive story of Rocky Mount and her surroundings, and we’ll provide a new, engaged readership. There are knowledgeable people here who would provide these columns as sweat equity in the revitalization process of the entire area until the paper turns around and revenues are up. I promise to deliver them! It’s the best offer you are going to get today. I’d rather see a newspaper printed once a week filled with our great story in a positive light than a declining readership that has lost interest in other people’s news.
Wonder how Main Street readers feel about a more localized newspaper? Leave a comment below or be in touch.