The Johnson City Press' Community Advisory Board meets to address the comments and concerns of community members. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
A successful newspaper is based on its ability to address the needs of its community, and that’s the idea behind the Johnson City Press’ development of a Community Advisory Board over the past few months.
Though the group of six community members meets just monthly, its impact has been significant. Each of the meetings has resulted in honest suggestions and criticisms from the board members. The meetings have also resulted in response from the newspaper staff.
Publisher Justin Wilcox said he takes the CAB very seriously and is passionate about putting into place some of the suggestions that are made there.
“We may think we know what people want,” Wilcox said. “We have to be able to adapt to see what our community wants.”
One example highlighted by Wilcox as a direct impact of the CAB has been the addition of more good news into the newspaper. The old adage, “if it bleeds, it reads” — meaning that sometimes violent and gritty stories become the most popular — still applies to some degree, but can reach the level of being overdone, he said. The addition of more good news in the paper has been noticed in the community, according to board member Mark Finucane.
“We feel like we’ve made an impact,” Finucane said, which was verified by Press Senior Reporter Becky Campbell.
“This is a result of what you’re thinking,” Campbell said. “Your voices are being heard.”
An emphasis on recent good news that jobs might be coming to the city and seeing both sides to stories such as the ongoing annexation issue in state and local government had Finucane happy with the newspaper, he said.
Finucane said a lot of the coverage of hot issues like annexation and local government stories were being covered fairly in both the opinion pages and in traditional hard news articles.
Another big change has been the drive for user-generated content, be it photos taken by readers or guest articles or featured comments. This has been a throwback to the style Wilcox remembers of the rural, farming community newspaper his grandfather ran, where, Wilcox said, the editors published nearly everything given to them by the community.
Community newspapers, like the JCP, thrive on being able to provide something readers can’t get anywhere else — “unsubstitutable content,” he said.