A few weeks back, The Laker/Lutz News was named the best weekly newspaper in its class by the Florida Press Association. This obviously is a huge honor for our staff, and we greatly appreciate this recognition of our work.
I also believe it is an acknowledgment of how doing the harder thing is usually the right thing.
I have tried to live my life and manage my company by making decisions with a long-term perspective, while listening to my moral compass. I’ve learned that instant gratification often backfires, so the decisions I make are often the harder choice, and ones that take longer to see positive results.
I held true to this when COVID-19 hit last year, when many of our advertisers asked to pull out of the newspaper because they were forced to close their business. Since advertising accounts for 100% of our revenue, my staff and I needed to make decisions quickly to keep our newspaper going in a time when readers needed our news more than ever.
One of the first decisions we made was to increase our local news coverage, instead of cutting back. Editor B.C. Manion and her staff did an exceptional job explaining how COVID affected our local schools, government, businesses and just about everything else. Her team gave readers information they needed to be safe and prepared, and they shared heart-felt stories about people and community groups, and how they adapted to the COVID way of life.
It was this stewardship of local news that explored the impacts of COVID on the daily lives of our readers, along with continued excellence in coverage of the people and communities we serve, that led to the 27 awards we received from the Florida Press Association, for our work in Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
“It’s safe to say that all of our work was affected by COVID, as we shifted gears to cover just about everything differently than we did in the past,” Manion said.
As I’m sure it was for you, this past year has been very challenging, and I have never seen my employees work harder. In addition to Manion’s contributions, staff writer Kevin Weiss expanded our coverage in East Pasco through aggressive reporting on Dade City and Zephyrhills city government. At the same time, he continued providing outstanding stories about community sports and recreation.
When COVID shut down just about everything, Mary Rathman, our editorial assistant, responded by searching out ways for our readers to take advantage of myriad virtual activities, published in our What’s Happening section. She also alerted readers on ways to keep healthy, through the virtual lectures and activities we shared in Health & Wellness.
As our production days shifted, artists Matt Mistretta and Stefanie Burlingame responded by working many weekend hours to put together the paper’s layout with outstanding, award-winning design — making our stories inviting and easy to read.
Photographers also helped us to continue to tell the story of community life, despite the pandemic. That’s where readers played an important role. Their images showcased our local wildlife, community events and big moments.
In fact, contributions by photographers Lillian Cucuzza and Steve Vinik were so outstanding, they received Florida Press awards.
When restaurants began to reopen, our marketing team of Kelli Carmack and Katie Fernandez highlighted them through Foodie Friday, a weekly video series about area restaurants. We share those videos on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to look for Season 2 of Foodie Friday, which kicks off on Aug. 6.
Besides retaining robust news coverage, other decisions we made using the “harder choice” philosophy included preserving our circulation, offering flexible sales programs to businesses and hiring employees to expand our social media programs — giving readers the choice to receive our news in print, on our website and on our social media platforms.
I never faltered in the belief that readers want and need The Laker/Lutz News.
I am so pleased that the temptation to save money by reducing news coverage or cutting circulation did not carry the day.
By making those hard choices then, our company is stronger now than it has ever been.
Being named the best weekly newspaper in Florida is a gratifying honor — one that we happily share with our readers.
Published August 04, 2021
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