Wednesday, December 17, 2014
As we head into the holidays, I'm struck by two thoughts. First ... didn't we just do this? Time flies ... it seems like we were just shopping for trees the other day. (Donna and I appear to have the distinction of being the last people to buy a tree from the Fairgrounds this year; they were packing up as we made our purchase. You're welcome, CARA!)
The other observation is this—it's been a good year for the JFP. In fact, it's been our best year ever. We're proud and pleased to be poised above downtown in Capital Towers for our second Christmas with quick access to the Capitol, City Hall, government offices—and, as I like to joke, looking down on The Clarion-Ledger.
(I'm telling you I've got a solution for their woes that'll work even better than the Groupon they're running for subscriptions right now: Install a rooftop skating rink and host roller-hockey matches. Think of the young demographic!)
Seriously, there are two fundamental reasons for our success at the JFP. One of them is the staff that puts out the newspaper every week—plus JFP Daily every day, the website at all hours, BOOM Jackson every two months, etc.—and does so with gusto, determination and ownership of their jobs.
In particular, I'd like to call attention to our managers—Amber Helsel, R.L. Nave, Kimberly Griffin, Richard Laswell and Kristin Brenemen—who are doing a fabulous job pulling their departments together and keeping the trains running on time. With their leadership and the buy-in from our entire team—Gina Haug, Brandi Stodard, Trip Burns, Anna Wolfe, Dustin Cardon, Micah Smith, Zilpha Young, Melanie Collins, Natalie West, Ronni Mott, Latasha Willis, Montroe Headd and Tommy Burton—we've been able to produce a great year of reporting, feature writing, Web development, local business marketing and so much more.
The second reason is, quite simply, Donna Ladd. Many of you know her as the Editor-in-Chief of the JFP and the keeper of the paper's vision for news, feature content and analysis. If you've read us for a while, you know that she's a co-founder and co-owner of this enterprise, as well as an authoritative and supportive voice on issues that challenge Jackson and Mississippi—and those that set us apart and lift us up.
What you may not know is that Donna took on even more responsibility in the past 18 months that include an addition to her title—CEO. In this role, Donna has set out to do something that has proven to be a strength of hers—get the rest of us organized, engaged, and motivated to reach the high standards that she and the rest of us hold ourselves to daily. In the past year, we've had more retreats, meetings, con-fabs, idea sessions, "drink thinks" and follow-up than ever before.
The goal is to turn us into not just a media outlet with a mission, but into a better, sustainable local business. And it's working.
This may sound like inside baseball, but I'm telling you this because I think it speaks fundamentally to the role of the "newspaper" company in 2015 and beyond.
The Jackson Free Press is succeeding—but we still have significant challenges, like any small business. We fight cash flow and market forces, and ebbs and flows like anyone else. And like other small businesses, we plow everything we make back into the business to try to keep it growing and improving.
But being a locally owned, independent business also informs who we are as a news source. I believe that perspective is something that's sorely missing in today's local media landscape, and that companies that do have those feet on the ground are more responsible and responsive to the needs of their community—by necessity.
I mentioned The Clarion-Ledger running a Groupon for its subscriptions because, well, I still can't believe I saw that this morning. But there it is ... one multinational corporation leaning on another multinational corporation to try and sell us something here in Mississippi—because they can't seem to sell it any other way.
Why? I think the C-L falters because they don't invest in their product—not the local product, anyway—and the corporate overseers don't have their boots on the ground in this community to truly understand what it needs and why what they do—or don't do—matters.
At this point, it's almost passe to bash the C-L, considering how infrequently you hear something positively said—and I will say that they've got some good folks there, and I'm sure many of them are trying to do a good job.
It's the company I've got a problem with. Gannett has gutted the "paper of record" in Mississippi in the name of the sacred profit margins required of the publicly traded corporation. And it's sad.
Our ambition at the JFP is to help fill that gap, and we're plugging away at it given our resources—resources we hope to continue to grow. So far, this year has been a big step in the right direction, and we have plans—and leadership—to take us even further in 2015.
One person left to thank is you, the reader. We've learned from Nielsen Local's Scarborough Research this year that our cumulative readership in print has grown to nearly 130,000 people, making us the largest non-daily publication in the Jackson media market.
Along with print, our website has grown to an average of over 110,000 unique users per month and nearly 3.7 million page views in the past year. We thank everyone who picks up the JFP, accesses us online, uses our JACKTOWN app (jfp.ms/jacktown) and reads BOOM Jackson magazine.
And we appreciate the letters, comments, feedback, encouragement, content and tips that come in every day of the year at jfp.ms/contact.
Looking forward to 2015, I encourage you, as always, to find opportunities to shop and spend with local businesses in Jackson and the surrounding communities. Local businesses invest more of their profits back in the local community through jobs, banking, professional services, purchases, investment in human resources and more.
We can work together—even through our shopping and end-of-year purchases—to create a prosperous new year for Jackson.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Todd Stauffer is publisher, president and co-founder of the Jackson Free Press.