Winning Rocks

The Milton Times staff just walked away with its second award in two years from the National Newspaper Association.

The award was announced last summer but presented at the NNA’s annual convention in Omaha last week. The convention celebrated the success of community newspapers in a tough economy.

The cartoon that won the Milton Times a third place award depicted Ledger reporter Fred Hanson standing in a crowd of Milton residents just before he was pulled off regular coverage of Milton news for the local daily paper.

Fred was saying “If only a few more of you bought the Ledger, I’d still be covering Milton.” Nearby someone had a thought bubble saying, “I read it online.”

The cartoon is not actually funny. The reality is daily newspapers like the Ledger have been giving their product away free for the past decade and they’ve watched their print readership decline in those years.

The Milton Times, like those big dailies, has a free web site. Obviously, if you found this blog, you can read stories from Milton online.  But after trying the model the bigger papers have been using (for two years back in 2000-2002), we have limited what goes online.

Just last week the Boston Globe announced it would be trying a paid web site while keeping the free site it’s been promoting at Boston.com. All of the big papers have figured out they need to do something differently.

It the past few months those big papers have been going after the small local retailers, trying to eat away at the losses they have been absorbing.

Those small local retailers are the source of life for a small weekly paper like the Milton Times. We have served the Milton market for the past 15 years. There are features we have tried and then moved away from in the brief history of the paper.

Our first responsibility is to create a viable newspaper. This means capturing stories about Milton and its people. It also means we pay attention to the bottom line. Our staff deserve more pay than they receive, but they are willing to accept the salaries that work in this market. We would love to print more photos and add more stories – the limiting factor is a financial one. Advertising pays the real cost of the paper. Subscriptions pay for the postage, plus the cost of subscription upkeep.

It’s fun to win awards. It’s great to be acknowledged by our peers.

Cartooning is fun, too.  Maybe there will be more cartoons in the Milton Times in the coming year.