A much-needed community paper

To keep people informed after Hurricane Katrina, a locally owned biweekly paper called The Sea Coast Echo gave out issues for free.

The Bay St. Louis paper has had layoffs, though they were linked more to the the depression that started four years ago. Comparatively, the national recession was a ripple in the bucket.

RaNDY“We're hanging in pretty well,” says editor and publisher Randy Ponder. “Revenue is pretty steady. Our circulation numbers are a bit higher than we were 'pre-K' — pre-Katrina,” he decodes for me.

Ponder echoes what I've heard from other community papers: People still want news about their hometown and the Internet isn't yet a great source for that.

The Sea Coast Echo doesn't run national news, anymore.

“That's all we are is a local community newspaper and we are doing quite well because we have a product that no one else has,” says Ponder.

Two full-time and two part-time reporters, a news editor and a publisher emeritus, cover all the typical issues. Reporters have been snapping the photos in the paper for more than a decade.

The paper competes for circulation with the Biloxi SunHerald and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. But Ponder says when it comes to consumer choice, the two bigger papers often cancel each other out.

Given three choices, residents of Hancock County, where Bay St. Louis is located, often opt for the smaller paper.

And since the paper has never had much national, real estate or auto advertising, it didn't notice a huge dip when those companies slashed expenses.

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