Editorial: Inviting New Readers, Long-Time Supporters to Take a New Journey With Us
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point City-Times has undergone many changes since it first launched online in late 2010.
Many of our readers have been with us since that time, and will remember our website was, at first, quite unprofessional and inconsistent. At the time, all we really had to our credit was moxie, guts and a long term vision of reporting all the hard news in the community that went largely missed by other news outlets. But that moxie was enough to carry us through to February, 2012, when we launched a new “rolling” daily website, loaded with even more local news than before, and soon, we were no longer nipping at the heels of other more established news organizations. In many instances our news reporting was beating our competitors in terms of speed, depth and accuracy.
Due to heavy reader demand, we added a weekly print edition to our news arsenal, to great success, in May of 2014. That print issue gave us street credibility, and the tangibility of a printed newspaper meant our reach was wider. We employed several junior high students as “newsies” to distribute our free print copies to the public in front of area grocery stores, and soon we had problems keeping our distribution points stocked. Retailers would begin calling early each week to ask for more.
But we had no experience with the logistics of running an actual business. We needed a big change to ensure uninterrupted growth of the City-Times, lest we lose the fragile public trust we take very seriously and hold close to our hearts.
When the Wood Family first proposed joining the forces of the City-Times with the Buyer’s Guide, I was reticent to accept any changes to the identity of the Stevens Point City-Times. The Wood Family is well-known throughout the media industry in Wisconsin; it’s patriarch, Frank, fought throughout the 1980s and 90s to save his daily newspaper, the Green Bay News-Chronicle, from being swallowed by corporate media giant Gannett, leading to a series of legal battles and stinging articles he and others forged against his competitor.
Frank Wood eventually sold his paper to Gannett in 2004, but not before his story was published in The Chain Gang by Richard McCord. The book was an inside peek into the world of Gannett- the City-Times’ own daily news competitor- and for the first time made me aware of at least some of the challenges the Wood Family faced. That the family is still involved in the news business shows they know how to weather a storm, but it’s also kismet: what an ideal force of nature we can make in the news business today. The family now owns the local Buyer’s Guide, Central Wisconsin Hoopla and a slew of other publications under the name Multi-Media Channels LLC.
Their respected status did not make my decision any easier. I had long-relished being unaffiliated with the “chain newspaper” world, and to me, the City-Times isn’t just a product. It’s become part of the infrastructure in the Stevens Point metro area, part of the institution of the Fourth Estate upon which readers base conversation, opinion and action in their daily lives. Since our inception, the entire staff took great pains to deliberately craft and maintain the City-Times’ look and content, the type of news we covered and the kind of interviews we conducted. It came with sacrifice; I personally logged an average of 70 hours each week reporting and writing hard news for the community as well as building relationships with members of the community, many of whom had long lost faith in local news media. My children, too, had sacrificed time with their mom, home-cooked meals and freshly-washed bedsheets each Saturday night; all staples of my own childhood.
Our decision was pragmatic: joining together, building upon what the other has already established, will make the Stevens Point City-Times the most widely-distributed newspaper in Portage County. Our website and social media alerts will remain largely unchanged, and you’ll see our newsies in front of the Stevens Point locations of Trigs and Copps each Sunday morning with a smile and a free paper.
I published my first newspaper as a St. Peter’s Middle School 8th grader. Today, I have two 8th graders of my own. So, while MMC handles the business end of this business, I’m going to take a little time each day to get to know my kids again. It’s been a great ride so far, and I see many more years of great experiences with MMC at the helm. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.