By STEVE SOUTHWELL
This week’s print edition is our 52nd consecutive weekly newspaper. It is one year in print for us. It seems odd and slightly surreal for us as a publication with roots in 2004 to be celebrating a first anniversary.
Back in 2004, we started out as the blog WhosPlayin.com—which still works to get to our website—and we started some news coverage back in 2007. By 2011, we moved more toward news, started transitioning away from opinion, and focusing more on local coverage. At that time, we changed our name to The Lewisville Texan Journal to more closely reflect what we were doing. In August of 2015, we started printing The LTJ on paper.
This past year has been harder work, and has seen more money invested than all prior years put together. Before we started in print, I had a few gray hairs. Now, they all seem to be in a rush to turn gray.
Before we started, we knew it was going to be more work, but we sort of had the attitude that we were already writing stories for the web, so how hard could it be?
It turns out that print brings a lot of challenges.
First and foremost, it’s way more expensive than online only, and it requires a lot more advertiser support to make it happen. We are still working on that aspect. The free newspaper that you pick up at local businesses actually cost about 6 cents for the paper and ink. It’s about 34 more cents per copy for everything else it takes to produce it: writing, design, editing, delivery, fixed costs, equipment, and other expenses.
Secondly, the hard deadlines are something we never had to deal with in the days that we were web-only. Each week, by Friday night at 10 p.m., we have to write at least eight pages of content. It’s a good thing, since it forces us to be more diligent about getting our stories done in a timely manner.
Formatting is another fun aspect of print. On the web, there are no space constraints. In print, things have to fit. If we have more than we can fit in eight pages, we could go to 12 pages or 16 pages, but nine pages is physically impossible, and 10 pages is impractical. So each week, we usually have things that either only go on the web, or get postponed.
Aside from print-related work, we’ve had to balance and juggle all the business-related aspects of hiring, selling, billing, collecting, accounting, and all of that other not–so-rewarding and not-so-fun stuff. I drop the ball a lot, as anyone who is waiting on my return email or phone call will attest.
But I would drop it more if it weren’t for my family and friends stepping up to help out. My wife (and LTJ business manager) Jennifer “Fluffy the Great” Southwell steps up to help out each week, and fill in the gaps while running our household and her own small business. My youngest son Isaac, 16, helps us edit the print edition on Friday nights. Isaac and my oldest son Seth, 17, get up before dawn each Saturday morning to help us distribute the paper by running delivery routes.
Mostly, what I’ve learned from this crazy endeavor is that one has to rely on friends and supporters. We have had so many people volunteer with us, chip in money, put in good words with advertisers or distributor locations, and contribute articles and story tips. Since we started, there really has not been a week go by without me being floored by someone’s help or generosity. And they keep doing it even though I’ve sometimes been so blasted busy that I’ve not been as good a friend to them.
Up until a month or two ago, I’d get really nervous as our weekly deadline neared, becoming a basket case by Thursday night, wondering how on Earth I was going to get things written and laid out in time. My employer has been extremely understanding and accommodating during all of this, putting up with my occasional needs to move hours around to get this done. Oh, and did I mention that I work a full-time 40-hour-a–week job outside of this newspaper? Yeah, that keeps me pretty busy.
But here lately, I think that my faith is finally starting to take root. I no longer fear Thursday and Friday. I get concerned, but I have faith in the providence that always results in us producing the eight pages you’re reading.
I have faith in our friends, readers, supporters, subscribers, advertisers, writers, contributors, employees, donors, investors, and tipsters.
Why do they have faith in us?
I think it’s because they understand the need. Lewisville is a city of over 100,000 now. Our city is full of stories that need to be told, and communities that need to be heard and served. Our hard-working citizens need a local source for the news and information that will engage and inform them. Our residents are more than just a market demographic for regional advertisers to target or ignore.
The Lewisville Texan Journal aims to truly serve the Lewisville community with integrity, intrepidity, and relevance.
Lest you think I’m horn-tooting, I want to assure you that I don’t think we are yet where we need to be. If you could merge all of the news sources (print, broadcast, and online) that serve our city, I still don’t think it’s what Lewisvillians deserve. We have a lot of hard work in front of us to sustain and improve what we’ve started.
I’m proud to have a year under our belt. I hope that next year’s anniversary issue will be delivered to your doorstep. If you believe in the mission, I hope you will subscribe now for just $60 a year at ltjne.ws/subscribe.
Even if you don’t or can’t, we hope you keep reading, and share LTJ with your neighbors, because our city is better off with citizens who are informed.