After Mason City leaders inked an agreement in late June with Gatehouse Capital to develop a hotel and conference center near Music Man Square, we were inundated with questions about the deal.
Was this a good deal for Mason City? If the deal were to fall apart, would taxpayers be held liable? Had the city done its due diligence on the Dallas-based developer?
Reporter Jared McNett and I spent several weeks examining the financing, talking to city leaders and newspaper reporters where Gatehouse had done or was attempting a project, and going over the deal with development experts, among others.
The result was more than 150 inches that provided readers a thorough examination on a project that will impact Mason City's economy for years to come.
Last month, we published a project on the 25th anniversary of the Mason City Bats, the culmination of nearly three months' work by sports reporter Shane Lantz. Shane combed through archives and tracked down people affiliated with the team, at one point spending days trying to find the league's owner, who purportedly ran a strip club in the Twin Cities.
That's in addition to regular daily work, for example, covering our local softball and baseball teams' playoff runs, city councils, county boards, school boards, businesses opening and closing, and let's not forget about crime and courts.
Or photography. Breaking news reporter/photographer Chris Zoeller spends a lot of his Saturdays at events all over North Iowa, providing our audiences with galleries of many of the interesting things going on around us.
Why the recitation of work? I was thinking about it – analyzing it, really – after a phone call with Judy, a subscriber since 1954.
Judy said everyone she talks to is unhappy with the Globe. Too little local news, too high-priced.
I agreed. Everyone I talk to says about the same thing.
But then I asked Judy a favor, and it's a favor I ask every time I speak in public, every time I talk to someone who wanders into our office and every time I hand out a business card: The next time she sees or hears something she thinks is interesting in her community, would she give me a call about it? If she's on a committee for a community event can she make sure we know about it? If she sees a wrong she thinks should be righted, can she stop by and let me know?
Because the secret to a strong, successful local newspaper is an engaged and supportive community.
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It's no secret that our products cost more than they did in the past. So does pretty much anything else you can think of buying. News is not free to produce.
It's also no secret that there are fewer of us doing the work these days. That's also true in many, many other industries, including one our Bloomberg columnist sharing the page with me today writes about.
Karl Smith, a former economics professor, writes that as people's incomes have risen, so has how often they dine out, according to government statistics. Predictably, that has impacted the grocery store industry with shrinking profit margins. But while there are fewer grocery stores, they haven't disappeared. They pivoted, and thus was born a more diverse array of stores offering a greater variety of products.
And here's where your engagement and support becomes critical. Our industry is not dying, it's in the midst of a pivot. To what? The pundits and eggheads are not sure, but I believe it's to more local, citizen-driven journalism.
Yes, there are fewer of us. But we're a strong, local, committed group of journalists who want to serve North Iowa as well as we can. You're the missing piece. You replace the additional feet on the ground of yesterday.
So, tell us what you want. Don't just say you want more "local news." What news? Be specific. Stories from school board meetings or more stories about kids doing cool things? And by the way, if you know a kid doing a cool thing, tell us about it!
Wonder why we have fewer news on nonprofit organizations? Join one and send us a note on what you're up to. It doesn't need to be an organized, written out press release. A simple email or a quick phone call is enough.
Be like Mason City resident Thomas Frank. He sent us a letter saying his taxes went up by 46 percent and he wants to know why.
Guess what? Our reporter Jared is looking into it and we'll report it as soon as we can.
That's what we do. But these days, it costs more money to do, and we cannot do it alone.
Will you help us? Judy said she would. I hope you do, too.
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