Today is Jan. 1. Which means you’re probably making a list of all the things you hope to do, improve or change in 2014.
But let me stop right here before you turn the page. I promise — this is not another column about New Year’s resolutions that are almost certain to go unfulfilled.
Instead, I want to look back, instead of ahead, much like this week’s paper that profiles our favorite stories of 2013.
So here, in no particular order, are 10 achievements of the past year that I’m most proud of professionally and personally.
1.) More readers than ever
In March, we learned that our 2012 circulation audit reported that 80 percent of households in Lutz regularly read The Lutz News. And in Pasco, The Laker is read by 75 percent of households in our distribution area. This is an increase of 8 percentage points in just two years — a statistically remarkable accomplishment.
2.) Better business coverage
Our business reporting really took off after Michael Hinman joined our staff in July. In particular, his focus on growth and development — topics readers told us they wanted more of in a readership study — have added more depth and analysis to our news coverage.
3.) Breaking news reporting
In early November, we reported that the long-stalled outlet mall at State Road 56 and Interstate 75 had finalized a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, clearing the way for construction approvals. We were the first to report this story, which was later picked up by just about every other news outlet in Tampa Bay.
As a weekly newspaper, it is never our priority to be first with a story. We leave that to the immediacy of television and the daily newspapers. But it sure felt good, and made me proud, that our small news staff broke such important regional news.
4.) More faith and worship stories
One of my favorite stories this year was about the Rev. Garry Welsh, a new priest assigned to Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Land O’ Lakes. It was one of many religion stories written by B.C. Manion, a subject she does a superb job exploring and writing about.
5.) Redesigned website
A redesign of our website makes it easier to read and find stories in our archives. Check it out at LakerLutzNews.com, for everything from things to do this weekend to stories you want to share with friends and family.
6.) An active Facebook page
It took us a while to join the conversation with an active Facebook page. But we’re finally there, thanks to the combined efforts of Suzanne Beauchaine of our advertising staff, Michael Hinman of our editorial staff and Stefanie Burlingame of our design staff. This threesome makes our Facebook presence engaging and fun. See for yourself at Facebook.com/TheLakerLutzNews.
7.) Three employees celebrate 10 years
For a small business like ours, it’s quite remarkable that three out of 12 employees celebrated their 10th year with our company. Terri Williamson in sales, Carolyn Bennett in customer service, and Mary Eberhard in accounting are outstanding individuals whose commitment to our customers and company are much appreciated. Another employee, Mary Rathman, also has played a valuable role in our company for more than a decade, with a brief break in service. She’s the one who makes sure our t’s are crossed and our i’s are dotted.
8.) My son’s engagement and marriage
It was a huge year for my son, Andy Mathes, a first lieutenant in the Marines. He became engaged to Erin Morgan on Labor Day and married her Nov. 2, a week before his deployment to Afghanistan. I never imagined I would be marrying off my son last year, and couldn’t be happier with the daughter-in-law he chose for me.
9.) My daughter turned 21
I know my daughter, Rachel Mathes, has technically been an adult since she was 18. But there was something about her turning 21 that has solidified our adult mother-daughter relationship. Rachel graduates from Stetson University this spring, and I am so proud of her perseverance and commitment to completing her degree in four years.
10.) Zeke dies, Jonas lives
On March 27, my family lost Zeke, our 14-year-old yellow lab. We never doubted our decision to euthanize Zeke, but that didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. Zeke left behind Jonas, our 8-year-old Airedale, who has flourished with all the extra attention and elevation to alpha dog. Sadly, Jonas had a cancerous spleen removed in September, and we were told he had only one to three months to live. Four months later, Jonas is proving the vet wrong and is livelier than ever. We’re beginning to call him our miracle dog.
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