I’m excited to share the news that I’m diving fully into the world of community newspaper publishing. As of October 1, I’m the owner and publisher of the Western Wayne News here in Wayne County, Indiana.
If you’re not familiar with it, WWN is a weekly print newspaper that covers news, events, sports, government meetings, businesses, organizations and so much more from (despite its name) across the entire county. The paper was founded in 1991 and under the leadership of Janis and Ed Buhl and later Brenda and Jim McLane, has grown to reach thousands of people every week in print and online, powered by a wonderful team of reporters, designers and administrative staff. You can read more about the paper’s history and team.
My path from technology entrepreneur and software developer to print journalist and newspaper owner is nontraditional to be sure, but this is a thrilling opportunity to continue exploring my interest in the questions of where and how people get their information, and what informs the decisions they make about their lives, values and communities.
As I’ve talked and worked with the McLanes in recent years while also completing my Masters of Arts in Journalism, we found that we share so many ideas and hopes for what it means to provide quality news reporting to this area, and I’m honored that as they began to consider their business succession plans, together we found a path forward that will hopefully keep this essential community resource thriving and growing for many years to come. Now, I’m elated that I will be able to build on what the paper’s staff and supporters have done for Wayne County and its residents, while bringing my own ideas, skills and experience to bear as we inform, inspire and hopefully improve the communities we serve.
I could wax poetic about some of those ideas and what they might look like in action at a local, independent newspaper, and in time I’ll plan to share more of my thinking on future possibilities. But for now, my primary focus will be on supporting our staff, readers and subscribers as we continue to do what we’re already doing: covering the news and what’s happening in the community so that people feel informed and connected.
As a part of this new venture I’m launching a media and publishing company, Civic Spark Media LLC. The Western Wayne News will be its primary publication but I’ve also moved my “WayneCounty.info” project under its umbrella as well. In the months ahead we’ll be launching new projects that expand on this work. You can sign up for occasional email updates here. We're also hiring.
Here we go!
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be any changes in staffing, office location or print edition production schedule?
It’s business as usual. I’m delighted that everyone on the team has accepted my invitations to continue on, and I look forward to working with them. While the Cambridge City newspaper office may not remain our only location for long, for now it will continue to be our headquarters. The print version of the paper will still come out 51 weeks per year.
Um, you know newspapers are dying, right?
The newspaper industry is changing to be sure, and communities across the U.S. are losing a heart-breaking number of news organizations every year. But at the same time we’re seeing a surge in innovation and experimentation in local news business models that is not only leading to some local news organizations avoiding closure but actually thriving and providing new kinds of connection and service to their communities. I’m not investing in a local newspaper because I think it will be profitable, but because I think a strong local news media presence is important for the health of a community, and I want to help avoid Wayne County and our region becoming a news desert any more than it already is.
What makes you qualified to own and run a newspaper here?
I’m sure I still have a lot to learn, but I think have a good foundation:
- I have significant experience as a founder and leader of various local businesses and organizations. You can check out my résumé, projects, and past affiliations for details.
- I have a Master’s degree in Journalism from Ball State University.
- I’ve been involved in creating or strengthening various local media, news, and community information projects over the last two decades.
- I’ve done consulting for the Western Wayne News over the last several years and have become very familiar with their operations, subscribers, advertisers, challenges and opportunities for growth.
It also means a lot (at least to me) that the outgoing owners of the paper have expressed their excitement and confidence in my ability to build on what the paper has already achieved.
What about your past political involvement? Will the paper have a political point of view?
My past volunteering in local politics has been a small part of my overall community involvement, but some may reasonably wonder what that means in the context of this new venture.
I’ve thought a lot about this and weighed the serious concern for journalistic ethics and perceptions against the desire to apply my passions and skills locally in this new way. While I will not pretend that I don’t have personal political opinions or biases, as we all do, I am committed to the practice of journalism that leaves out any political or ideological agenda, and focuses on providing diverse perspectives while meeting the community’s information needs. I believe the news media has an important role to play in informing community conversations about political happenings and strengthening democracy, but I do not believe a journalistic publication should try to influence votes or advance any particular political viewpoint. I know that my staff and I have the training and professionalism to be intentional and careful about that distinction in all of our work.
A specific commitment is that I will remove myself from any material decisions, discussions or coverage involving the 2022 local elections, as well as any future election coverage of political candidates where I have been directly involved in the past. I will also be updating our paper’s policies on transparency to include detailed and regularly updated disclosures about our reporting team members` affiliations and financial interests, to ensure that readers can make informed decisions about any potential or perceived conflict of interest as we carry out our reporting.
I want to celebrate this but I already have (or don't really need) a subscription. Any options?
If you want to support local journalism and help me celebrate this milestone beyond subscribing to the paper, consider becoming a supporting member with a financial contribution of any amount.
If you still have other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.