The Southeast Missourian has launched a new text messaging service that will give readers local news seconds after it occurs.
The free service provides greater access to breaking news, high school sports scores, Southeast Missouri State University sports scores, morning headlines and severe weather alerts for Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Perry, Scott and Stoddard counties. Readers may sign up at semissourian.com/textalerts for as many or as few categories as they desire. The service is free; however, standard text messaging rates through one's wireless carrier apply.
Jim Maxwell, associate publisher of the Southeast Missourian and vice president of operations for parent company Rust Communications, said text messaging is another step toward the newspaper becoming a 24-hour media organization.
"I believe in the eight weeks I've been here that the mission and goal of our company has been to deliver information when, where and how readers desire it," said Maxwell, who came to Rust Communications on July 2. "Any media not utilizing text technology is really missing the boat."
Maxwell said the text messaging service's weather feature could potentially save lives, just as the fire alert option did while he was president and publisher of the Pocono Mountains Media Group, which consists of a 20,000-circulation daily newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania and several nearby weeklies.
Shortly after the text messaging service was launched in 2006, a fire occurred in downtown Stroudsburg, Pa. A local businessman was visiting in China when news of the fire reached his phone via a text message. He then alerted an unsuspecting resident of a neighboring building about the fire.
"That's just one example of the immediacy of text messaging," Maxwell said. "Within 60 seconds of hearing about a disaster across the police scanner, a paper is able to alert its readers of any danger that may await them."
In addition to alerting readers of breaking news on their cellular phones, Maxwell said, the text messaging service reaches a new demographic while expanding what current readers are offered.
"Papers in general in the past few years have been changing, and this is one example of the media evolution," he said. "I see us as no longer newspapers but media companies using multimedia tools to reach new audiences. Any information we can get readers in a faster way is what we're hoping to accomplish."
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