I entered 2011 with a sense that it was going to be a life-changing year for me, one way or another. I had been discussing the idea of buying Kaneland Publications Inc.—and thereby the Elburn Herald—off and on for years, and the discussions had essentially ran their course. It became clear to me that 2011 was going to either be the year that it happened, or it was going to be the year I had to move on and pursue other endeavors.
As the year and those discussions progressed, the difficult economy continued to place pressures on the paper. Like most media companies, we are understaffed; and like most independent small businesses, we have limited resources. That means the small staff we have do not receive the compensation or benefits as they might otherwise receive if they worked at one of the larger, corporate-owned media entities in our area.
Yet, for the most part, the staff remained loyal to the community and each other, and the community remained loyal to the paper. Very few staffers left the company, and our circulation and ad revenue numbers stabilized after shrinking significantly when the local economy went over its cliff a couple of years previously.
While everything did stabilize, the struggles continued and a thought began to grow in the back of my mind that maybe these difficulties were a sign that I should move on. Yet, while I struggled with that thought internally, I continued the pursuit of purchasing the company.
It seemed like every time I prepared to move on, something would occur to remind me of why we do what we do, strengthening my desire to put down roots here. I would connect with a reader about a story we wrote, or disagree with a government official about an editorial that we published, or see a reporter get captivated by a story or a photographer capture a moment perfectly.
For an individual, buying a hometown newspaper is more than a mere business investment, it is a public commitment that says that the paper and those who work so hard to put it together each week will continue to serve our communities for the years and decades to come.
It is not an asset acquisition based on a corporate financial decision made in a boardroom miles away, and our readers and advertisers are not merely numbers in a spreadsheet.
You are all real people with real lives pursuing your real hopes and dreams and overcoming your real challenges. Our focus is to live and/or work among you, sharing in your stories, reveling in your successes and supporting you in your challenges.
It was these realizations that kept me here through our challenges, and on Sept. 2, I was fortunate enough to purchase the company and put down those lifelong roots in the community.
I haven’t second-guessed that decision once, because I know I get to work with a great staff serving wonderful communities of people each day for the rest of my career. For that sense of peace, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each member of the community and each member of the Elburn Herald staff.
One member of the staff deserves a special mention this week—Keith Beebe. He joined the staff a few years ago as an unpaid intern, desiring to practice the craft of journalism while strengthening his connection to the communities in which he lived.
After putting in his time as an unpaid intern, he left for a “paid gig” elsewhere. We were happy to have him return as a paid staffer last November, and he was happy to rejoin us.
Since then, he has steadily taken on new and more responsibilities. He has covered both the village of Sugar Grove and the Kaneland School District consistently, including the Sugar Grove Library District’s personnel issues that occurred at the same time as the village’s TIF District issues. He juggled both ongoing stories while also pursuing the stories about the people that make up our communities, and really showed what it means to care about the communities we cover and the coverage we provide our readers.
He spent this entire year emerging as a leader, and we are proud to say he has taken on a new role as the Elburn Herald’s Assistant Editor.
2011 was a crossroads year, and now that we’ve picked our path, we’re excited to grow and develop with you in 2012 and beyond.