The Arizona Newspaper Association’s annual convention last weekend kind of felt like a maniac roller coaster ride — so loud and steep we spent the whole time somewhere between weightless and terrified.
The conference provided a chance for the Roundup staff to get together and exchange war stories and talk endlessly about the future of our beloved but beleaguered business.
It’s an exciting and frightening time to publish a newspaper, given the inexorable and disorienting changes that have swept through our calling posing as a business these past 30 years.
All across the country, ad revenues that plunged as the recession took hold have not recovered. This compounded a long-term decline in ad revenue due to profound changes in the way people get information in an endlessly connected society.
Meanwhile, a whole generation of would-be newspaper readers now get their news online — mostly free gleanings from the stories put up on the Web sites of newspapers like the Roundup. Although these Web sites have attracted legions of new readers, the business remains largely dependent on loyal, wonderful, beloved readers like — well, like you.
Through the recession, the pallid recovery, the decline in Rim Country’s population, the contraction of the schools — our circulation has held steady. You’ve stuck with us, making it possible for us to cover those stories we talked about at the convention.
That’s why we felt humbled, relieved and proud of the awards the Roundup earned in competition with scores of other non-daily newspapers in Arizona. Newspaper editors from the Oregon Newspaper Publisher’s Association judged the entries, ensuring a certain professional objectivity.
We managed to win the “General Excellence” award for news by accumulating first and second place finishes statewide for things like news writing, our Web site, sustained coverage, investigative reporting, page layout, photography, columns, features, sports columns, sports coverage and other categories.
Our own Alexis Bechman also won statewide awards for the top news story in any non-daily publication and for her adroit and persistent use of the Freedom of Information Act to ferret out information we felt our readers needed to know.
We also nearly swept the categories for investigative reporting and sustained coverage — which came from our effort to live up to your high standards.
The awards represented a true team effort by our family here at the Roundup, including the folks who design the pages, build the ads, sell the ads, run the presses and make sure you get all the useful information we can cram onto each page.
Of course, awards don’t really matter much — except as an indication that we’re on the right track in trying to produce a newspaper that will contribute to your life — and maybe even give you a few interesting tidbits each morning with which to impress the kids.
Moreover, the seminars we attended all day made it clear that we have to adapt to this new world — and find ways meet the needs of our readers, whether it’s over the morning coffee cup, flicking across the surface of an iPad or sorting through pictures on a computer screen. That’s why we’re happy that our redesigned Web site won a first-place award, why we’ve started updating people on Facebook and are working on setting up a Twitter feed for people who want quick updates.
We’re also working hard to figure out ways to take advantage of exciting new technologies to serve our community, with digital publications, photo albums of community events, the publication of reader photos and stories and finding new ways to serve our readers.
But here’s the most important thing. That’s all possible only because of the subscribers holding this page in their hands. You’ve stuck with us through the recession, through this interminable downturn, through our worst mistakes and our best days. You’ve given the most wonderful stories to tell — the most loyal of readers to serve.
So we want to thank you and promise we’ll try to make this newspaper worth your time and your attention — in print, online and on into the future.