“I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.” — Studs Terkel, writer and broadcaster (1912-2008)

Last week’s "Gray Matters" column in The Republican Journal written by Tanya Mitchell and entitled “Can’t make it here anymore” was an interesting perspective and I’m glad she wrote it, and that The Republican Journal shared it with our readers. It was more than a “good-bye” column as she laments about the state of the newspaper industry and its pay scale.

I don’t share her views that small town newspapers and their accompanying Internet websites have faded and are on the ropes, and neither do the statistics. Tanya cites some statistics, but I can tell you with certainty those statistics do not apply to The Republican Journal or the other three newspapers I own.

Our print circulation is continuing a slow decline (3 to 4 percent), but the online subscription base continues to make up the difference, and more. For sure, the role of a newspaper has morphed over the last decade, and other forums have arisen, but its basic essence hasn’t left us; being part of the community and being the trusted conduit for news, social happenings and an opinion forum continue to be the reason local newspapers and their Internet sites are vital and relevant in a way that social media cannot replicate.

First, social media is important and can’t be ignored; that is a “no contest” to me. However, social media is reckless, thinly regulated and merely provides a way to spread the news that would be referred to as a “gossip” column in the 1970s when I cut my teeth in the newspaper business. Twitter and Facebook provide important and potent outlets for information but accountability and trust (as well as depth and fairness) are certainly not comparable to the responsibility taken by a traditional news source like newspaper organizations or television outlets.

Tanya’s statistics aside, the truth is that the majority of marketing advertising is still done in the form of newspaper advertising. And her claim that revenues are down is simply not true in our local arena.

FACT 1: The Free Press, founded in 1985, and primarily a print media, continued to raise its print circulation in 2013 to levels comparable to the past while its advertising revenues were at record highs – not bad for a 27-year-old, mature business that has always been a mainstay in Midcoast Maine.

FACT 2: The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald, and the Belfast Republican Journal had a healthy increase in advertising and circulation revenues in 2013 over 2012.

FACT 3: travelMAINE, a 40-year-old state-wide publication we publish has had increases in ad revenues in 2012, 2013 and again in the 2014 book. They have added several new titles such as petMAINE and abOUTMAINE, which also increases their print advertising base and expands the printed product base of their business.

FACT 4: The Real Estate Book of Mid-Coast — we began publishing that in 1991 — also showed increases in print advertising for 2012, 2013 and is tracking ahead, over last year, for 2014 as well.

The key is creating a sustainable model; giving away your core product, whether it be news or donuts, is not a business model that can survive the long term. That has been proven over the past decade, as it was proved in decades past.

Tanya also touched on the subject of wages and created some misconceptions. She was right on with the fact that anyone getting into the reporting field should not have “getting rich” as their number one life priority. Jobs in our field are simply not as high-paying as many other professions.

FACT 5: As things have stabilized here at Courier Publications and Village Soup, we have had several rounds of raises that have more than kept up with the cost of living index since this management team took over in 2011. There have been “bonus based on profit” shared with all associates in each of the first two years under this team. In the years ahead we hope to continue to give merit raises and raise the standards of pay, while maintaining the sustainable business model we worked hard to put into place.

I wish Tanya well, thank her for her years of solid contribution and effort, while inviting her to continue to contribute to our community paper, as a reader and community member, as she "turns her page" and we turn ours.


Pay it forward. Turn the page!

Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.