We often get complaints about the cost of the newspaper, and I want you all to know that we hear you.
We all know times have changed, and the JG-TC is not immune to that.
My parents were big readers of the newspaper. I always read the local paper as long as I can remember. I got hooked on news early on, and have worked at newspapers now, including college, for nearly 30 years now.
Once upon a time, it was "all hands on deck" at the little newspaper in Vandalia to insert fliers into the paper on press day. Top retailers were going strong, and so was their advertising reach through the local newspaper right next to all the news.
There was a time, too, when what subscribers paid -- if they paid anything -- wasn't even a big concern for the newspaper industry.
Wow. Like I said, times have changed. And we've heard about it from you.
It's pretty common for introductory rates to be offered to new customers, such as with cable TV or phone service. And then the cost of everything seems to continually go up, with wages stagnant. We all know that. We pay more for gasoline, health care, groceries, clothing and almost all goods you can name.
Why do these costs go up? We all know that too. When gas prices go up, it costs more to truck groceries into town. That cost gets passed on to the consumer. It takes more money to get the product to us, so we have to pay more for it.
Newspapers are no different. But I think it's fair to say we've been hit harder than most industries.
Look around town. Big retailers have come and gone -- Kmart, the large Sears in the Cross County Mall, and others. Those folks wanted to reach you, our readers and subscribers, and they paid fair prices to do so. Most of the costs to write, print and deliver the paper directly to your front door, then, were paid by revenue from those advertisers.
I'm writing this extra column this week in part because I know many of you have received mailings about a rate increase for home delivery of the JG-TC. Many folks are questioning varying rates.
I'm with you -- it takes time, but our rates for subscribers need to be streamlined and more uniform. Everyone wants to pay the least amount possible for the best product possible. But we all know the old saying: "You get what you pay for."
Local news is important. You can't get local news in the scope that we cover it from any source other than the JG-TC. State and national news in the printed paper is vital. We know that you, as well as we, the staff at the newspaper, love items such as Letters to the Editor, Glancing Back, My Amish Home and other items featured only in the JG-TC.
Every day, our reporters work their beats, keeping in tune with local government, schools, business, police and fire departments and more. They work for you. They dig in and bring you information that you can't find elsewhere.
Not everyone in town can go to the Mattoon City Council meeting every session. Charleston's school district offices wouldn't fit all the people affected by the school board's decisions. That's what reporters are for, and we're there.
We bring you context and analysis of local news and beyond. We're here daily, not just when a big news event happens. We don't pop in to town for a hot story and leave again. We're here. We keep the interests of our readers in mind 24/7.
And we give you a voice, too. Letters to the Editor are one of our most popular features. You get up to 500 words at a maximum of every three weeks to have your say, and so do your neighbors.
Get online and get some blips of news here and there. Can you trust the source? Our newspaper has been at this for decades upon decades, and our experience and tradition of covering news is practically unmatched for the Mattoon/Charleston area.
And we're from here. Our staffers live in Mattoon, Charleston and the surrounding area. We make news decisions right here. Yes, we're part of Lee Enterprises, and the corporation and our sister papers help streamline our operations. But you can trust that we are local residents doing work on behalf of our fellow local residents, and it matters to us.
From other places, you get news tidbits. That's kind of like taking one bite of a delicious meal. Doesn't it leave you wanting more?
That's what we're here for. We go in-depth so that you can truly get a feel for what's going on, not just a shallow piece of information.
We all wonder where the current trend of divisiveness in our country truly comes from. Think about it. More and more, people only read blurbs of news from sources other than the local paper. Don't you think that shallow knowledge contributes to discord in America? The Associated Press is the source of a lot of news for area television and radio stations. And the AP gets its news largely from local newspapers.
In fact, to share our local news, plus get state and national news for the paper, the JG-TC pays the AP. We don't get comics, TV listings, local contracted columnists and other content, such as Dear Abby, for free, either. And as a business like any other, we incur normal expenses, with personnel and paper as the top two of those.
Think about your home budget. Costs go up, and you have to make decisions about where to increase income and/or decrease expenses.
And we all make choices. I often spend $10 for lunch when I could spend $5 because I like the delivery. It saves me time. Convenience comes with a cost, and I decide when that's worth it.
We are a community newspaper first. We're human, too. We all pay bills and take the newspaper ourselves, and we care when someone is injured in an accident or a new business opens in downtown Mattoon or there is conflict between "townies" in Charleston and students.
We're invested emotionally in what we do and our experiences as a community. They won't like me sharing this, but our staff was pretty emotional when the Sept. 20 shooting happened at Mattoon High School. Yes, we dug in and did our jobs, but we were heartbroken, too, just like you, that something so awful could happen here.
So what's a fair price for all we offer you? If you remember, in days gone by, most readers paid less per day for the paper than a first-class postage stamp. That just doesn't cover the costs of the product.
I'm not a coffee drinker, but I hope we're worth as much as your favorite latte in the drive-through. I know I certainly can't get a meal for $2, but I get a lot of news and advertising information from the daily newspaper that I don't want to do without, and that I can't get anywhere else.
We appreciate our readers, and we do what we do with such enthusiasm and some sacrifice for you and our community as a whole.
So thanks for taking the paper. Thanks for being patient while we improve all that we do and, in particular, our subscription pricing.
We're here working for you.