By Al Cross
Professor and Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
Twenty years ago, as smart people were beginning to predict the death of newspapers, Sharon Burton started one. In a county that had another one (and still does). In a county of only 18,000 people. In a county listed as "economically distressed" by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
|Most of a recent Community Voice front page|
Burton spoke at our National Summit on Journalism in Rural America in June because she is an example of the principle that good journalism is good business. Her weekly paper does investigative reporting, runs pages of official records, has a strong opinion page and is a force to reckon with. Here are several other examples.To celebrate, the Community Voice is matching the first $1,500 in donations it receives for the local food pantry, and held an open house with soup and snacks, and invited readers to help it plan their future together: "We are also busy developing our strategy to bring you the timely news that you want, and the news that you need in the future," Burton wrote. "We want to hear form you about your news consumption and what you value the most, the least, and how you like to receive your news (print, phone, computer, etc.)."
Asked how the open house went, Burton told us, "We had one reader bring us some flowers with a note, 'To the ethical conscience of Columbia.' . . . Many of our elected officials dropped by. That tells me we can do our job, ask the tough questions and still gain their respect if we treat them with respect."