Oh, baby! New year’s news warms weary soul

In my journalism career, I had the opportunity to write about so many subjects—quite literally from A (archaeologists, academics, activists, annual budgets, and an astronaut, just for starters) to Z (maybe a zoo? a zebra? Well, at least some folks had first and last names starting with the 26th letter of the alphabet).

However, I cannot recall ever writing about a New Year’s Baby—that hyper-local staple of journalism that, come every January, chronicles a community or region’s inaugural boy or girl.

Page 1 of the Jan. 8, 2021 edition of the Harlan News-Advertiser. Inside were police reports, high school basketball game accounts, birthday notices for those celebrating their 70th and 90th birthdays, obituaries and other local news and columns.

This all comes to mind on the heels of my 1,000-mile trek last week from Colorado back to Chicagoland. Along the way, at multiple convenience store/gas stations, I encountered local newspapers that were faithfully on the New Year’s baby beat.

I chuckled at the recurring theme and could not resist purchasing one of those editions, the Harlan Advertiser-News in Harlan, Iowa. The front page proclaimed the news of the birth of Maya Louise Scheffler, the fourth child of Megan Gettys and Adam Scheffler. A pretty cool subplot: one local resident won a year’s subscription to the paper ($69 value) by being the closest to predict the precise time of the first area baby’s arrival. Stunningly, JoAnn Bruck of Earling was a mere one minute off the mark.

It may be hard to summon the memory, but can you think back to the closing days of the seemingly never-ending 2020? Were you, like so many of us, anxious to put the trying, terrible, tragic, traumatic year in our rear-view mirror? It was a horrible time in countless ways; too many of us have our stories of woe, me and my family included.

Sadly, 2021 has felt like a colossal doubling-down of 2020. At the heart of its terrible tumult: the heinous insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol.

From afar, like so many millions of Americans, I witnessed that ugliness with a heavy heart. A few days later, making our way back after a week of blunted restoration near the Rockies, my soul was warmed to see these beaming couples along with their healthy children in those newspaper accounts from across the heartland.

Not sure if you had occasion to come across any similar account. If not, here you go—may it offer you, amidst the madness and brokenness, at least a small measure of hope and joy.

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Godin Offers Take On Newspapers’ Future

Evidence of the decline of newspapers–as we now know them, anyway–is all around us, both locally and nationally.

Pioneer Press, the chain of weekly newspapers that has been around for more than a century, just shut down a dozen of its papers throughout the Chicago region. Last week, three Pioneer editors I have been in regular touch with the past two years were among 10 top editors who received pink slips.

Amid that dour news, I recently came across “When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?” a blog post featuring some refreshing insights from marketing maven Seth Godin.

One point he makes about journalism, and which I wholeheartedly agree with: “Punchline: if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we’ll pay for it one way or another.”

Still very much in flux: just what that business model will look like.

PR Aimed At Local Newspapers: Alive & Well

In yet another piece of News That Isn’t Really News comes a recent report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Pew asked more than 1,000 folks where they got “most of” their national and international news. In 2008, the Internet eclipsed print newspapers as their primary news source.

You can see more detail here in a New York Times blog.

Local news, however, is a different beast. For one thing, local publications don’t have a user-friendly (or even, in some cases, any) website. More significantly, however, local news is a much more intimate, day-to-day relevant resource than national and international news.

While the future of major newspapers is cloudy, I am most optimistic about the fortunes of local publications that do a solid job of covering their own communities. From a PR perspective, it is crucial to recognize how to tailor news releases and story suggestions with that specific smaller geographic focus in mind.

For example, if you have five people, from five different communities in the same metro region who have benefited from a given company’s service, then the same type of story can be pitched to at least five (and sometimes even more) distinct publications.

Increasingly, this has been a most fruitful approach for our clients at Inside Edge PR. We regularly secure multiple “media hits,” each one of which is targeted to an audience that is actually in a position to take action that benefits the client (for example, becoming a new patient of a given practitioner.)