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Beebe: Working to build the best community newspaper

Beebe: Working to build the best community newspaper

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Most of you would know that I am a somewhat frequent contributor of Op/Eds to the Forest City Summit.

I realize that it is actually the Forest City Summit/Britt Tribune, but having lived in the community for 51 years, it will always be the Forest City Summit to me.

Raymond Beebe *NEW

Raymond Beebe

It will come as no surprise to any of you that in this digital age, the newspaper business has become very tough.

Over the past 15 years, the United States has lost one-fourth of its local newspapers – 2,100 publications including 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies. As a result, hundreds of communities – inner-city neighborhoods, suburban towns and rural counties – are without reliable sources of local news and information.

Compounding the problem, over the past 10 years, we’ve lost more than half the journalists on our surviving papers. That means there are many fewer reporters to cover routine government meetings and breaking news.

This is indeed unfortunate as there is abundant research finding that strong local journalism builds social cohesion, encourages political participation and improves the efficiency and decision-making of local and state governments.

Historically, newspapers have been the prime, if not sole, source of credible and comprehensive news and information that affects the quality of life of residents living in the thousands of small and mid-size communities that dot our country.

I believe that the small town newspaper is important to the community it serves. The community members see the newspaper as not only a source of information and entertainment, but also as a community advocate, community builder and community engager. They also see the newspaper as a constructor of the community’s collective memory.

So where am I going with this?

I think many of you are aware that overall management of the Forest City Summit lies with the people at the Mason City Globe Gazette, which in turn is one of many publications of Lee Enterprises. Over the last several years, I have had frequent conversations with the publishers and editors of the Mason City Globe Gazette, as well as the personnel with direct oversight of the Forest City Summit. 

I have also had a number of conversations with Forest City residents, and I am going to suggest to everyone that the success and survival of the Summit-Tribune is critical to our community.

I have recently had several conversations with Jerry Smith, who now has direct oversight of the Summit. We agree that having Leland native and Forest City High School graduate Rob Hillesland as the Summit-Tribune’s community editor is a huge plus for the community and the newspaper. Rob has already begun building relationships and working more closely with the school district, Waldorf, the historical society, and the city and county.

But he can’t do it alone.

That is why I would like to form an advisory group of community members in Forest City to talk about what is important in our community. Armed with this information, Jerry and I will talk about if and how these issues can be addressed in the Summit-Tribune, all with the goal of providing readers in those communities with relevant and useful information.

We all have an opportunity to help the Summit-Tribune continue to thrive in our communities. In sharing news and stories that affect us all, we make Forest City stronger.

In addition to the story ideas gleaned from the advisory group, when we know of upcoming events for the community and its various clubs and organization, it is incumbent on all of us to contact Rob (641-421-0534, rob.hillesland@globegazette.com) and let him know.

This is a collaboration that will help our community newspaper and keep the residents it serves informed.

Raymond Beebe served as a vice president for Winnebago Industries Inc., for 38 years. He's currently president of the Forest City Education Foundation.

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