In 2021, The Laker/Lutz News will be 40 years old, and I have had the opportunity to be its owner for the past 20 years. Over the years, we have received many awards from newspaper organizations for our editorial excellence and ad design, as well as recognition from local chambers of commerce, civic groups and economic development agencies.
My staff and I are always honored to accept these awards, and we proudly display them at our Land O’ Lakes office. But, no award has been as emotionally satisfying as the one we received last week from the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.
We learned in early October that we were nominated for the Chamber’s 2020 Excellence in Integrity award. This was exciting, of course, but when we were notified a few weeks later that we were one of four finalists, we were extremely gratified.
The announcement that we had won came during the Chamber’s 2020 Celebrating Excellence in Business event. This virtual event was well done, with hosts Hope Kennedy and Kevin O’Farrell keeping the commentary energetic and fresh.
Most people participated by watching on the Chamber’s website or via its Facebook page, while several area businesses had small “watch parties,” with safe social distancing. We were invited to a small gathering at The Hilton Garden Inn in Lutz, and six of us from The Laker/Lutz News were able to go. It was fun to be out together, and to watch the show with other chamber members.
We were fortunate that the Integrity category was the first award to be announced — allowing us to relax and enjoy the rest of the show, and cheer on other finalists and winners. Every business nominated for these awards is to be congratulated and honored for the outstanding work they do, and their outreach in the community (see related story).
Receiving the Excellence in Integrity Award is especially meaningful in a year of so many challenges. What began as a strong first quarter, as we welcomed Pasco County’s many new businesses and residents, dramatically changed in March with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many businesses, our revenue plunged after most area businesses and institutions closed. We responded by reducing expenses significantly, but were careful not to make cuts that would negatively impact the quality of our news coverage, or reduce the number of papers we print and deliver every week.
We believe people want and need local news more than ever during a worldwide health and economic crisis. And, because we are the only weekly newspaper in central Pasco and north Hillsborough, we also believe that local businesses still in operation and those reopening need our local audience to market their products and services.
We are successfully navigating through this difficult year because of our commitment to our community, optimism that our local economy will rebound, and the hard work and integrity of my staff.
With the help of my employees, we have moved our company forward and have made — and continue to make — changes that we believe are best for our readers, advertisers and community.
Making good decisions begins with integrity. It means living your life personally, and professionally, with honesty, commitment, selflessness and empathy. Those core values are exemplified by every employee at our newspaper.
I want to thank the North Tampa Bay Chamber for honoring our newspaper, and I want to close by sharing with you a note I received from our editor, B.C. Manion. She captures perfectly why this Integrity Award means so much to our team, and why we are so thankful to receive it.
B.C. wrote: “I am so proud of our newspaper, Diane. I can’t imagine receiving an award that means more than receiving an award for integrity. It came at a good time, too. It’s been a tough year, with lots of demands. But, we are working our way through it and we will come out the other side, an even stronger and better company than we are right now. So, congratulations for leading a newspaper that means so much to the community.”
Published November 18, 2020