PUBLISHER'S COLUMN: Not just a newspaper
As December and 2010 end we have witnessed the end of some streaks that may never be broken. Brett Favre starting 297 consecutive games and Larry King's 25 years of CNN interviews are two that come to mind. Here are two others locally that will never be approached again; as Terry McCollough stepped down as the publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch it marked the first time in 80 years that someone from his family had not been at the helm of the Dispatch. Even more impressive is, that for more than 9,500 consecutive publication days Terry's name was listed as the publisher. Truly this is the end of an era.
Having acknowledged the changes, here's one thing that will never change: The Dispatch is still the leader in recording news and the history of our local community. Because of that, we not only have 25,000 to 35,000 reading our printed product daily, we also have 120,000 unique IP addresses tuned into our website on a monthly basis. Our readership and the responsibility to our community have never been greater or more important. We are there following high school sports; publishing death notices and birth announcements; covering meetings and governmental affairs. The list goes on.
Another aspect that has not changed is that we employ 100 people that are an integral part of the community in so many ways. Whether they are involved through work, or customers driving the local economy, or volunteers with one of the area's many organizations, our people are an important part of the community. They are professional, seasoned veterans working either in a journalistic or business basis. We recently went through the list and close to a third of our employees have more than 20 years of service. Not to take away from our youngest, one of whom was recently announced as employee of the year, it is a good mix of those who have grown up in the printed world and those that live exclusively in the digital world.
Our franchise has always been our local news. The biggest changes coming to our business will be mostly in the way you - the reader - will prefer your news to be delivered. Do you still prefer reading a traditional hard copy of the newspaper, or do you use our newly redesigned and more interactive website? Coming soon you will be able to pick mobile options and use your smart phone, iPad, or other ways to read. The big change will be the way we deliver the news and you will dictate that.
Have I mentioned social networking yet? For some of you reading this it means you have taken a break from any number of networking sources, most likely Facebook. As the dynamics change in communications we have also embraced Facebook and, at present, we tally more than 5,000 friends of the Dispatch.
One change we at the Dispatch need to make is the perception of who we are and what we do. First, we are no longer just a newspaper but rather a news gathering organization. These changes have been forced upon us for years and we have immersed ourselves in change accordingly. We have had to figure out how to monetize those changes and that has not been easy. Who would have thought that we would be selling SEM, SEO, or BT advertising? If you don't know what that means, neither did we a couple of years ago. The point is we are selling these and other new advertising products as well as traditional products. We have to because we can't apply for government grants, or ask for membership fees and donations. We have to survive like any other "for profit" business.
Since Jan. 1 represents a changing of the guard at the Dispatch, plus it is the natural time for making resolutions, I will offer you mine. I resolve that in the year to come I will, to the best of my ability and to the best of our Dispatch staff's ability, do everything possible to produce the best news coverage and serve our Brainerd lakes community in any way we can. Nancy and I have loved living in the Brainerd Lakes area for nearly 40 years. All three of our daughters, Bethany, Sarah and Laura were born here and educated here. We are proud to call Brainerd our home.
TIM BOGENSCHUTZ, publisher, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5844.