By Mike Whittlesey

Where People Count Most: The Shelf Life of News

In April 1973, readers of The Progress Review were greeted with a new masthead that featured a sketch of La Porte City’s (really) old water tower and a tagline with four simple words: “Where People Count Most.” For the next 18 years these four simple words remained a fixture on The Progress Review’s front page, a constant reminder of the newspaper’s commitment to its readers.
Forty years later, one of the biggest challenges weekly newspapers face in 2015 is shelf life. The evolution of smart phones and advances in technology allow the average American to remain connected with information sources in ways not thought possible as recently as twenty years ago. The abundance of information and the smorgasbord of news choices now available at our fingertips makes it an exciting time to work in the newspaper industry.
One of the advantages of producing a weekly newspaper like The Progress Review is the amount of time our small staff has to invest in the stories we publish. When we do our job well, the belief that people do, in fact count most should be clearly evident in The Progress Review’s pages. That is why we encourage you, dear reader, to share with us news that may be of interest to the greater La Porte City community.
When it comes to reporting news, its “shelf life” is an important commodity, much like the carton of milk that sits on a grocery store shelf. In addition to advertisers, it is The Progress Review’s subscribers that make it possible to produce the newspaper 52-53 times a year. Because of this, we have established some guidelines that speak to the timeliness and frequency of publishing community news items.
One example that comes to mind is the request to publish the same (or very similar) article about an upcoming event more than once because it would be “a great reminder” for our readers. We typically do not honor such requests unless the “reminder” is formatted in the form of an advertisement. While some of our subscribers may appreciate seeing such reminders, others view the repetitive content as sour milk. We believe the purchase price readers pay for The Progress Review entitles them to new feature stories each week. Unlike a television network, there are no tangible benefits for airing repeats in The Progress Review.
The decision to limit the number of times feature stories are published is not a one-size-fits-all policy. Many of the stories we publish are directly related to non-profit groups and organizations. Some events, like La Porte City’s Festival of Trails, require additional coverage because of their magnitude. In such cases, The Progress Review tries to find ways to provide the desired coverage in cost-effective ways.
Two examples of this include dedicated space provided for upcoming library events (“Hawkins’ Happenings”) and news from the La Porte City FFA & Historical Ag Museum (“Artifacts”). Both of these features typically appear on page three.
For questions regarding The Progress Review’s policies on publishing community news items, please call 319-342-2429.