Those of us who are old enough to remember growing up in our neighborhood where everyone knew everybody, most news that our industry today calls “hyper-local” traveled via conversations across backyard fences: Who was promoted at work, who was accepted to what college or joined the military, and who started their own business.
Today, Americans are much more mobile, and with hectic work-life schedules and suburban neighborhood designs that promote isolation, a lot less interaction occurs on the streets we live on. It may take us months or even years to meet those “new” neighbors down the street, and as much or more time may pass to learn word-of-mouth that a new deli has opened across town.
In the wake of these fundamental changes to our communities, weekly newspapers have sprung up across the U.S. “They showcase the goods things going on schools and community institutions, and zero in on an interesting people, in a way daily newspaper cannot,” observes Lisa Lewis, editor of The Record. “It is an opportunity for people to reconnect with their communities.”
To that end, we have expanded our product portfolio in the past year to include three weekly newspapers. The first, Greenbush Life, celebrates its one-year anniversary this month. It, along with Latham Life, founded in February, focus on two large suburbs in our region. The third, River Life, launched in April, serves smaller communities; Mechanicville, Stillwater and Waterford.
Two of weekly newspaper editors reflected this week on the weeklies’ first year and reported they find the job – and the community feedback – rewarding.
Greenbush Life Editor Jennifer E. O'Brien, a former high school and college English teacher, says the “the memorable stories are always the ones that can help someone else. Last fall, we did a feature on the annual JDRF walk; it was inspiring to meet the children and their families.”
She adds, “Residents really seem to enjoy reading stories about their community and recognizing familiar faces in the photo pages.”
Rebecca Eppelmann, editor of Latham Life, says “two of my most memorable interviews have both been Siena (College) professors. One wrote a book and another was working on a research project. The passion with which both spoke struck me as awe inspiring. Anytime I can share with the community the story of those who clearly love what they do, it's a great day for me. “The community has really embraced Latham Life,” she continues. “Not only have I received calls and notes from readers saying how much the like the paper, but in my opinion the best feedback the community has given is by becoming patrons of the local businesses we've profiled. The community is reading and reacting in a very positive way.
These newspapers are still evolving. There are plans to integrate more local school and recreational league sports coverage, incorporate more interaction from the community – including teenagers – and to introduce more news from school and municipal boards.
The Record is publishing more “good news” than ever with the addition of these products. And from what we have heard, that has been received as, well, good news by the communities we serve.