This year we received nearly 150 nominations, from newspapers whose offices are just down the street and from those who are halfway around the globe, and they each have a unique story to tell, making the selection process more difficult than ever.
The Times of India has relentlessly covered the story of a young woman who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, and eventually died of her injuries. Closer to home, a small bilingual (English and Spanish) paper called Rumbo has made a name for itself in Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley through its staunch investigative journalism.
But content is only half the story. Newspapers across the country are experimenting with their business models and making necessary changes to ensure their survival well into the digital age. My inbox was flooded with iPad apps, digital editions, blogs, photo galleries, proprietary videos, and stunning examples of digital journalism. Meanwhile, via snail mail, I also got to see your specialty magazines, marketing materials, and even hardcover books. The modern newspaper has to be so much more than a newspaper, and the entries we reviewed this year were all remarkable examples of that.
Here at E&P, we often get asked how we determine which newspapers make the cut as our 10 that do it right, and the answer isn’t really set in stone, just how your business models are no longer set in stone. We start narrowing down the field by looking for measurable markers of success — increased advertising sales, circulation growth, revenue achieved through a new channel, visible impact in the community, or digital products that do more than repurpose old content on a new platform. From there, we look for ideas that are unique and inspiring, strategies that other newspapers could implement in their own operations, and examples of why newspapers are still important.
The 10 newspapers we’ve chosen to recognize this year run the gamut from small, independent weekly to corporate-owned major metro. Some, like The Dallas Morning News, were chosen because they have the complete package — a number of different, simultaneous efforts to improve the business in a multifaceted way. Others, like The Arizona Daily Star, are focusing on doing one thing better than any of their competitors — putting together the best advertising package for grocery stores circulars, or providing total coverage of a niche market, or honoring the community’s veterans in a way that no other media outlet could.
The reason we continue to publish this feature year after year is because this industry needs good news. We need to feel uplifted and inspired, and we need to be reminded that we matter. We need the benefit of positive energy and a high-five from our colleagues and even from our competitors every once in a while. Because the truth is that we’re all in this thing together, and if we don’t write about the great things that are happening in the newspaper industry, no one else will. So go ahead and brag, and listen carefully to the stories of those who are doing the bragging. There are still lessons to be learned and, yes, still mistakes to be made. But we’re not going to get to where we need to go if we stay stuck in the rut of doing what we’ve always done.
The 10 newspapers that you’ll read about here got to where they are through bold action and calculated risk. They are giving the industry a much-needed shot of adrenaline, and it’s a true pleasure to share their stories with you.