Inside LINK is a weekly column from our CEO, Lacy Starling. If you have questions you’d like Lacy to answer, email her at [email protected].
I know I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. I grew up in a very small town in Ohio, where the weekly newspaper, the Free Press Standard, was part of the fabric of our community.
Don Rutledge, the main editor/writer/photographer, was ubiquitous. We saw him everywhere, from the county fair to the halls of my high school every Monday morning, taking photos of the debate team winners with our trophies.
He told the stories of our community, and he cared deeply for those of us in the community. He was a true old-school newspaperman, working for an old-school newspaper.
When I moved to Washington, D.C., my sophomore year of college, to intern for Scripps, he came to town and took me out to the fanciest dinner of my young life at the Capitol Grille to celebrate me joining the ranks of journalists like him.
It is Don, and the Free Press Standard, that I think of every time I talk about who we are and who we want to be at LINK.
I understand that it is no longer fashionable to be an old-school newspaper. It’s considered passé to run standard meeting stories, or to cover the county fair, or to spend time digging up property transfers and 64th anniversary stories.
That information can be found anywhere, people say. It’s on the internet! People can find all that through a simple Google search.
The real journalism, these folks say, is in splashy investigations. It’s in feature stories that win awards. THAT’S what news organizations should focus on.
Respectfully, I disagree.
Have you ever tried to find all the meeting minutes from any of the 36 cities or 17 school districts that exist in the NKY Metro? Have you tried to watch the meetings on public-access cable? Oh, you don’t have cable, because you cut the cord? Guess you can’t watch.
Have you tried to find out and then understand what happened at last week’s planning and zoning meeting? Do you even know which planning and zoning board regulates your community? In Northern Kentucky, even that is hard to decipher sometimes.
My point here is that sure, the information is out there…somewhere. But finding out where, and understanding what it means, takes time that most of us don’t have.
That’s why LINK is here. That’s why we have more than two dozen contributors going to nearly every city meeting in NKY every month. That’s why we’re the only news organization present, in-person, at every NKU Board of Regents meeting. That’s why we’re in the community at Office Hours every week, and spending hours walking our beats, meeting people.
That’s what a paper of record does. We create a written record of the things that are happening in our community. Residents will be able to read our pages (digital or print) and know what’s going on, and historians in the future will be able to look back on what we reported and know what was important to us.
Look, I understand why the big national papers reject the paper of record premise: covering a community like Northern Kentucky and doing it well is really, really expensive and time consuming. Employing 10 full-time editorial staff and dozens of contributors costs a LOT of money. It’s cheaper to just have the minimum staff and have them focused on flashy pieces that win awards.
But that doesn’t help the community. Showing up and lifting the lid on local government before you need a giant investigation helps the community. Letting folks know what’s going on before it is a crisis helps the community. Bringing people together around common bonds, like county fairs and life celebrations and high school sports, helps the community.
The big media companies can have their awards. We’re going to continue channeling our inner Don Rutledge and tell the story of Northern Kentucky, for Northern Kentucky.
We’re going to be your paper of record.