Recently, I found some notes for a column I wanted to write about supporting local businesses. While on a “sneak peak” tour of the transformation of The Alcove, I was standing at a second story window looking down South Main Street. The conversation moved toward the establishment of more retail in the downtown business district and whether or not we have the foot traffic to maintain such ventures.
This reminded me of how full the parking lot was at Kmart after they had announced nationwide closings, including our store. The same was true for MC Sports after they said they were vacating a new structure. Shoppers instantly flocked to these stores to save 10 percent. Eventually the markdowns were much greater and shelves were emptied. In instances such as this, consumers were like vultures along the side of the highway waiting for a car to hit a deer to get something for relatively nothing.
We can’t be a close-knit, supportive community if we are only willing to prey on the weak. We can’t wait until a store — or even a restaurant — is closing before we see the value in it. We must see the current (and future) worth in the local establishments that are eager to thrive on, and around, our main streets — whether that’s in Mount Vernon, Danville, Centerburg, Fredericktown, Utica or Bladensburg.
When we support local businesses, we keep our friends and neighbors employed, it drives sales tax to the county’s coffers and it allows for investment into storefronts that may otherwise be empty. When we financially support our locally-owned businesses we are investing in our communities, in our futures.
On Oct. 9, 1967, as part of National Newspaper week, the News published an informative piece highlighting “general newspaper policy and operation.” In this column, Fred Lorey, editor, explained that space allotted for advertising was the only “paid” space in the paper. Any news copy was published free of charge. Fifty years later, that philosophy rings true.
However, what was missing from the conversation 50 years ago, is still missing from contemporary conversations about newspapers. While we offer a plethora of “free” services for the community, the newspaper industry is a functioning business with a goal of selling subscriptions, single copy papers, advertising, graphic design work and commercial print contracts. No business will experience financial success when it gives it products away for free. The Mount Vernon News is no exception. And yet, we are asked on a daily basis to email stories and photographs or post entire stories on our website. It’s not that we are being stingy, but we are in the business to sell a product.
Do restaurants provide food and beverages at no charge? Do clothing stores allow consumers to wear their clothing without paying for it? Do gas stations fill up your tank without payment? No.
While the news industry has changed dramatically with the availability of the Internet and instant publication of news, what we do at the Mount Vernon News remains a commodity. We are, in fact, a business with the same financial responsibilities as any downtown merchant or restaurant.
Honestly, a 50-cent copy of the News is one of the cheapest — if not the cheapest — purchase you can make on any given day. In addition to all the same benefits provided when supporting other local businesses, may I highlight some of what we give back to the public with each edition:
•Birth announcements, at no charge;
•Engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements (along with a photograph), at no charge;
•Club news and photographs for groups such as 4-H clubs, granges, sororities, etc., at no charge;
•Reunion announcements and photographs, at no charge;
•Club and group meeting dates, at no charge;
•Local sporting event promotions and results (and photographs), at no charge;
•Information about fundraisers, blood drives, events at community centers and clinics, at no charge;
•The ability to request a reporter and/or photographer for an event or story of interest, at no charge;
•Publication of a letter to the editor, at no charge; and
•Breaking news on our website that has immediate impact on the community, at no charge.
I’m certain there are other free services that I have failed to mention, but the fact remains that so much of what we do — for the benefit of the community — is often overlooked and under valued.
Because the News is just like any other business, we appreciate our subscribers and advertisers who realize the value in our products and are willing to support us financially.
Samantha Scoles is the managing editor of the News, and can be reached at 740-397-5333, ext. 248; or by email at email@example.com.