The New “Paper” in Town

Not too long ago, I spent an enjoyable lunch talking with Lakeland’s newest Editor. She isn’t with the Ledger or the Tribune. She edits Polk County’s new community newspaper, Best News Polk County Florida.

That’s not a link to the paper’s website. That is the newspaper. Jennifer Renner-Gowan’s paper is dead tree free, but content rich. She recently moved to Polk County and decided the area could use an old-fashioned weekly. A paper that supports the whole community; one that highlights news deemed too minor for the area dailies.

Renner-Gowan is a newsperson with a clear vision of what Polk County could use: a news source that highlights school news and church calendars along side missing person reports, select state and national news and more.

At some point, you’ll turn first to Best News to read about your child‘s school events, business information, missives from the Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders.

Currently, Best News is a one-woman operation, but it doesn’t show. My feedreader stays busy with the daily updates written and compiled by Renner-Gowan. Each story has a close connection to the people and businesses of this community. I have no doubt Best News will quickly grow to be one of Polk County’s most read news sites.

8 thoughts on “The New “Paper” in Town

  1. Looks like a good place to get your press releases printed.

  2. Looks like a good place to get your press releases printed.

  3. As is Polk Voice.

    Tom, I’m sure you remember the traditional community weekly. Small staff means filler. Press releases are just one way to get information to the public.

    Maybe the daily has the staff to do a little rewriting, but they also have plenty of space for press release news.

    And isn’t wire copy the filler equivalent for the dailies? What the web has taught the average reader is how much news comes from the wires. How often do we see the same story run one day in the Ledger and another day in the Tribune? I can say it happens much more often than it did when I started in the field.

    Daily newspapers aren’t immune to other methods to fill space. Remember when every paper had columnists for TV, movies, and the arts? Smaller staffs mean we get the corporate columns on TV, movies, and such.

    We lose a little more of the “hometown touch” every day. Local sites, such as Best News, are an opportunity to help reverse that trend a bit.

  4. As is Polk Voice.

    Tom, I’m sure you remember the traditional community weekly. Small staff means filler. Press releases are just one way to get information to the public.

    Maybe the daily has the staff to do a little rewriting, but they also have plenty of space for press release news.

    And isn’t wire copy the filler equivalent for the dailies? What the web has taught the average reader is how much news comes from the wires. How often do we see the same story run one day in the Ledger and another day in the Tribune? I can say it happens much more often than it did when I started in the field.

    Daily newspapers aren’t immune to other methods to fill space. Remember when every paper had columnists for TV, movies, and the arts? Smaller staffs mean we get the corporate columns on TV, movies, and such.

    We lose a little more of the “hometown touch” every day. Local sites, such as Best News, are an opportunity to help reverse that trend a bit.

  5. As a former weekly (actually semi weekly, which is twice as much fun) community editor, I know about having to fill space, but there’s a great difference between journalism and stenography. Subscribing to wire services is not the same thing as being a conveyor belt for whatever comes to you. Wire service copy is edited before they reach subscribers. A lot of this stuff is just sent out shotgun style,hoping someone is guillible or desperate enough to print it.
    The worst example of this I ever saw was a weekly many years ago in Madison. I used to go the Florida Press Association meetings and hear about how how great a paper the guy, whose name was Green, had, but when I saw it was cut and paste city.

    No, what you do when you run a community newspaper is you go out and find news and photos that reflect what’s going on in your community; you don’t sell ads and fill the space you don’t sell with filler.

  6. As a former weekly (actually semi weekly, which is twice as much fun) community editor, I know about having to fill space, but there’s a great difference between journalism and stenography. Subscribing to wire services is not the same thing as being a conveyor belt for whatever comes to you. Wire service copy is edited before they reach subscribers. A lot of this stuff is just sent out shotgun style,hoping someone is guillible or desperate enough to print it.
    The worst example of this I ever saw was a weekly many years ago in Madison. I used to go the Florida Press Association meetings and hear about how how great a paper the guy, whose name was Green, had, but when I saw it was cut and paste city.

    No, what you do when you run a community newspaper is you go out and find news and photos that reflect what’s going on in your community; you don’t sell ads and fill the space you don’t sell with filler.

  7. You wrote “what you do when you run a community paper is…” I wish we still lived in that world at its apogee. The community paper is dying. They’re no longer cost effective. What will replace them are the kind of sites you read at Empirical Polk and Best News Polk. They are at different points of the hyperlocal continuum, but they’re the wave of the (near) future.

    Tom, we do agree that there is a difference between journalism and stenography. When I edited a weekly, I had competitor known as the “News-Release.” But that was long ago, when newspapers, for the most part, did their own work. I lived in a city with a morning and an evening paper. Both were owned by the same family, but reporters competed like they were the Yankees and the Red Sox.

    Those days are gone. Most cities are left with a single paper. Staffs have been slashed. Wire copy is king. And it isn’t the editing that concerns me, but the content. I try to read many papers a day, but how many times do I need to see the same “Russia claims Arctic” story? The exact same story. It’s a world of “pool journalism.”

    But that’s my gripe about the daily. I think the hyperlocal blogs are the answer for smaller communities. Remember what people wanted to see in your semi-weekly? Neighbors. They picked up the daily for the national news. In the weekly, they wanted to know who had set up shop and what Troop 337 was up to, and why the fire alarm went off at 4 am on Tuesday.

    Maybe Best News is currently running a lot of information gleaned from press releases….good for them. It’s local information. Polk County residents can’t find that information on CNN or in the Washington Post.

  8. You wrote “what you do when you run a community paper is…” I wish we still lived in that world at its apogee. The community paper is dying. They’re no longer cost effective. What will replace them are the kind of sites you read at Empirical Polk and Best News Polk. They are at different points of the hyperlocal continuum, but they’re the wave of the (near) future.

    Tom, we do agree that there is a difference between journalism and stenography. When I edited a weekly, I had competitor known as the “News-Release.” But that was long ago, when newspapers, for the most part, did their own work. I lived in a city with a morning and an evening paper. Both were owned by the same family, but reporters competed like they were the Yankees and the Red Sox.

    Those days are gone. Most cities are left with a single paper. Staffs have been slashed. Wire copy is king. And it isn’t the editing that concerns me, but the content. I try to read many papers a day, but how many times do I need to see the same “Russia claims Arctic” story? The exact same story. It’s a world of “pool journalism.”

    But that’s my gripe about the daily. I think the hyperlocal blogs are the answer for smaller communities. Remember what people wanted to see in your semi-weekly? Neighbors. They picked up the daily for the national news. In the weekly, they wanted to know who had set up shop and what Troop 337 was up to, and why the fire alarm went off at 4 am on Tuesday.

    Maybe Best News is currently running a lot of information gleaned from press releases….good for them. It’s local information. Polk County residents can’t find that information on CNN or in the Washington Post.

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