And adjustments we hope you’ll make too
by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor
LANSING, Ill. (December 12, 2020) – It was February of this year when Shopper owner Arlo Kallemeyn called me into his office. “I’m resigning from the publishing business,” he announced.
I was surprised of course. Arlo and his brothers spent four decades running the advertising newspaper their father Alonzo had started in the 1960s. The Lansing Journal’s partnership with the Shopper allowed us to be in print immediately, reaching the same 10,000 readers who received the weekly Shopper in Lansing. Being in business without the Kallemeyns would require some serious adjustments.
The Kallemeyns had a buyer in mind for the Shopper, and that buyer was also interested in buying the Shopper’s share of The Lansing Journal. After meeting him and his staff, I was excited about his interest in community news, his business acumen, and his network of salespeople and reporters. It seemed like a good opportunity for The Lansing Journal to grow.
The closing was scheduled for March 25. On March 18, Illinois’ quarantine went into effect—and the Shopper’s buyer asked to be released from the agreement. His other newspapers had been hit hard by the quarantine, and he couldn’t take on another enterprise.
The pandemic hit The Lansing Journal, the Shopper, and Park Press (our printer) hard as well. We were able to pull together a print issue in April, thanks to advertisers who made adjustments and commitments. It was the last issue printed by Park Press, who closed a few weeks later. We mailed that issue to residents in Lansing, but we couldn’t deliver bundles to our regular businesses because of quarantine closures. Even businesses that were open didn’t need as many copies of the paper because they were no longer getting the in-person foot traffic they were used to.
So we focused on online publishing. We had always published 2–5 articles online every day, delivering those headlines to our list of email subscribers (click to sign up). Now we increased the daily news we provided. We upgraded our online advertising options as well, trying to find ways to help local businesses reach the community.
Even readers who had never liked computers before began to accept that technology is a tool for connection. Our existing email subscribers thanked us for the daily updates we were reporting from local churches, businesses, schools, and government—and new subscribers began signing up. As visits to our website increased, we invested in a more robust hosting service and eventually a site redesign that would make the online experience more convenient for readers.
Along the way, with the Kallemeyns still ready to get out of publishing, two Shopper employees took over the Shopper, and I became the sole owner of The Lansing Journal. The Shopper and The Lansing Journal still help each other whenever possible, but we are now completely separate entities with different missions.
The Lansing Journal has always benefitted from the professional skills of freelance journalists who love this community. The bylines you see on the articles on our website and in these pages represent people with diverse interests, networks, and styles. As journalists they are essential workers, and they kept working throughout the pandemic. But they are parents and spouses as well, and most work full- or part-time for other organizations. So we are grateful for the sacrifices they make in order to report Lansing news.
As a prime example of this, in August freelance journalist Josh Bootsma accepted an invitation to join us full-time. During a summer of uncertainty in a year of crazy, he decided that community news was a risk worth investing his time and experience in.
Josh has been gradually taking over the role of Managing Editor, while I spend more and more time on business details, including communicating with advertisers and supporters. Josh and I both understand the important balance of news and advertising, of content and marketing. When we both do our jobs well, the community gets a newspaper worth reading (and supporting), and advertisers get to be included in a medium that people look forward to receiving.
In October we decided to do a print issue in December. We made arrangements with LithoType, a local printer who had taken on many Park Press clients (our previous printer). Two weeks later we learned that LithoType was going out of business. They transferred their projects to Blue Island Newspaper Printing, a family-owned press in Harvey, and we worked with Blue Island to put the print issue together. These adjustments turned out not to be a big deal, but they do illustrate how precarious the print business is right now. We don’t know how often we’ll be able to provide a printed newspaper, so we always encourage readers to subscribe to our Daily News email.
Adjustments from you
We understand the attraction a printed newspaper has—it’s more than simple nostalgia. The printed page feels more spacious, and printed news has a feeling of “official-ness” that daily email doesn’t. There’s something very satisfying about spreading out a 22×17” sheet across the table, and perusing it over a cup of coffee. There’s something meaningful about clipping printed articles that mention the names of people you know, and saving them or sharing them.
We understand that, and we don’t want to give up on print completely. Still, given the expense and labor of print, and the shrinking printer options available now, and the quantity of news we need to provide, and the speed at which updates happen—we hope our print-loving readers will consider ALSO signing up for our Daily News email. The Daily News is free; all that’s required is an email address. When you visit www.thelansingjournal.com/news/subscribe, you’ll find a simple form where you can input your email address.
Remember, signing up for the Daily News email does not mean you won’t receive the print edition whenever it comes out. We want you to have both so that you don’t miss any important news about our community.
We hope you’ll make the adjustment and sign up today. You might even find yourself feeling the same way this reader does: