Author: “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get”,
I was 25 when I was editor of an alternative weekly newspaper. And we were competing against the Eugene Register Guard, which is one of the better small city dailies in the U.S. And if I had known that – if I were a marketer – I never would’ve competed with them, but we were competing because we thought it was a good thing to do.
And I remember a story where there was a County Commissioner who had changed his vote – this is like prototypical local politics – on a freeway interchange. And we couldn’t figure this out, and in environmental politics – this is in Eugene, Ore., in the 1970s – everything was environmental politics. You tried to build anything – somebody would try to stop you. And there was a – he turned around on building a freeway and building a freeway interchange in an area where people didn’t want a freeway interchange, and we did investigative reporting on it and found that a local developer had paid him off to do that.
And our little struggling weekly, which was always on the edge of bankruptcy – but actually would have been on bankruptcy, but we didn’t have any assets anybody would want – was able to get that story out there and have that story to recognized and have that story be picked up by other media, because it was true – have that County Commissioner taken to court and convicted in court, and the developer exposed.
That taught me, I guess – at the tender age of 28 or so – what you can do and that’s what American journalism means.
That if you do your work and you do it fairly, you are doing something in public service. It had nothing to do with advertising. We knew why we were doing it. The public knew why we’re doing it. And it sustained us, when we were paying ourselves $300 a month.