March 26, 2012 by Steve Winkler
Reality has overcome optimism … again. Our two year effort to bring quality local journalism back to the small town communities of south Washington County has ended. We were struggling in a business climate where size matters and the economics of scale rules. “Too small to succeed” is no less true than “too big to fail.” Add to that the fact that the newspaper industry has been in a downward spiral for a decade.
Experienced newspaper people have always been skeptical of our belief in creating a profitable publication in a sparsely populated rural part of the county. The south part of the county has a lot of good people but is bereft of any of the commercial enterprises whose advertising dollars could fuel our venture.
Cost cutting efforts eventually resulted in a downsized product. Going from being a weekly publication to every-other-week along with an increased single copy, vending price resulted in decreased circulation which in turn means fewer papers need to be printed.
Our printer in Berryville was recently absorbed by a larger company in Harrison. Small independent printing companies reflect the shrinking character of the newspaper industry as a whole. In the glory days of the Observer the paper was printed in West Fork. Now the nearest independent printer is a hundred miles and a tank of gas away.
The cost of gathering the news and information, writing, editing, proofing, designing and distributing a thousand papers simply overwhelms the revenue which means we have no choice except to fall in line with the industry trend. We will continue to refine and expand our digital edition of the paper.
Our goal is to build on the same style, voice and perspective you’ve come to enjoy in the printed Observer. [Well, not everyone has enjoyed it. There is a gaggle of West Fork folks (good ole boys, good ole boy wannabes, nepotists and lords of the manner) who find our aggressive advocacy of transparent, accountable, open government to be offensive.
Our editorial policy will remain intact and so will our commitment to the local spin on news, politics, culture and commentary.
We will continue highlighting the everyday lives of the ordinary as well as noteworthy characters in the neighbor- hood. Using the magic of that wild and crazy world wide web, we will introduce you to an interesting place or curious thing you may have overlooked.