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.

Bells, Tenn. — Not sure what to think of this town!

I made a brief stop for ice, baby carrots and gas.

From the grocery store parking lot, I shot this funky old building


and picked up my free copy of the West Tennessee Examiner's "CrimeSeen," which I imagine has been the stripes-earner for a slew of unfortunate reporters.

Let's get to the highlights. Nancy Grace would be so proud.

'Two go to trail'


If you don't want your picture posted…


Wholesome advertisements


'Blazing flames injuries'


The website for the Examiner is www.wtegoodnews.com. Go figure.

‘The reason I started in journalism is really the reason I stay’

Ilene Olson is news editor of the twice-weekly IMG_1534 Powell Tribune, circulation 4,000.

The city of Powell has just 5,300 residents. Not all the paper's subscribers are residents; many once lived, worked or attended college in the town. But that's still a pretty impressive percentage rate!

A news staff of four covers the traditional beats, including courts and cops, and makes sure to tell the local feature stories as well or better than its three print competitors, says Olson.

Issues affecting national lands and and agriculture get special attention.

"The reason I started in journalism is really the reason I stay," she says. "I love people and finding out what makes them tick."

The paper and the town turn 100 this year.

The Lewiston Tribune


The Lewiston Tribune is a daily a.m. paper with 25,000 print subscribers. A news desk of 10 reporters and editors covers eight counties in northcentral Idaho and southeastern Washington.

City Editor Craig Clohessy says the paper has lost about 300 subscribers during the past couple years, but some of that may be due to less aggressive subscription sales.

The paper is family owned and plans to remain that way, says Clohessy. That's enough to set it apart.

It's also got some cool history, including a gargoyle mascot of sorts and a small museum that is open to visitors.

"We believe both mediums will move forward," Clohessy says of print and Internet.

Two years ago, the paper's owners purchased a new press for $8 million, which Clohessy showed me on Thursday.


A week ago, The Tribune launched the new face of its website.

About the same time, a video that accompanied a crime story received 20,000 unique views — nearly as many as the paper has print subscribers.

Coeur d’Alene Press


The city's daily newspaper, also owned by Hagadone, employs a staff of seven full-time reporters. Its primary coverage area is Kootenai County, where its print-based circulation is between 18,000 and 20,000 readers.

Education reporter Maureen Dolan took a few minutes to chat with me, Monday. IMG_0431
She's been at the paper three years and made it past a small round of layoffs, recently.

"We were doing pretty well (before the recession),"
she says. "I really think the economy just accelerated what was happening with newspapers."

The paper is slowly increasing its web presence, Dolan says, "But there's no big rush, at this point."

She adds: "I feel pretty confident that papers that are committed to community will ride this out in some format… and I don't think the print edition will ever completely go away."