What's up? Page 2

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One of the frustrations in the newspaper business is when I run into someone and they say, "I wish there were a place people could find out what's happening in town." These are usually folks who are organizing events, and they want to get their message to the public. And, the truth is, the newspaper has historically been the "town crier" for such events. In fact, we dedicate thousands of pages a year telling people about upcoming events.

Problem is, we don't always do it in a way that makes sense to all readers. Sometimes the notice appears on a calendar. Sometimes it's a brief story. Other times, it's a feature story. Readers might see such notices one day. On another day, they might be traveling and miss the story and thus miss the event when they return.

One way for promoters of events to make sure the public knows about something special is to buy advertising -- and employ frequency to deliver their message to everyone. But this can be costly, especially if you're a civic club or not-for-profit trying to organize an event that benefits the community but isn't something you're going to make a profit on.

Everyone seems to agree, though, that if there were one powerful place to share information, it would be great for the community. There would be no questions where to look, and people wouldn't be as apt to say, "There's nothing to do around here." Instead, a clear display of local activities would lead to a community that is more engaged, richer and more vibrant.

Creating such a powerful "town center" for community events is what we're launching at the Southeast Missourian. If you believe this is a good idea, we need your help.

Starting today, we are dedicating Page 2 of each day's newspaper to date-related events taking place in the community. And we are launching a new, powerful online calendar, where it's easy for organizers to post their events -- and easy for the public to find exactly what's happening here, there or wherever they want.

On each Sunday, we also will print a weekly calendar in our Good Times section, so the public (and you) can plan ahead.

Our intent is to create a one-stop shop for everything taking place in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City and the region. Because of a powerful computer system, we will be able to automatically find major events here and everywhere. But to make the calendar truly comprehensive -- from neighborhood gatherings, church dinners, club meetings, store sales, team banquets, political rallies, open Bible studies (anything you want to share with the public) -- we want to invite you to enter your own information into the online system. When you do, you'll automatically be entering it for possible publication in the daily print edition.

(Note: If you can't figure out how to enter such information using the online directions or don't have a computer, let us know -- call Matt Sanders at 573-388-3652 -- and we'll teach you how to do it at one of the local libraries or here are the Missourian office.)

Such a "town center" system takes considerable investment to make happen. Newsprint is not cheap. And under this plan, we are effectively committing to print more than 6 million calendars a year -- reaching 96 percent of the people in the county through both our paid daily and free weekly print products. Launching the companion online calendar also requires significant investment.

Thankfully, we have a strong partner in providing this service to the community. The Rite Group, led by Robin Cole, is a family-owned local company that provides a remarkable range of IT products and services, extending from document-imaging systems, business telephone systems and electronic medical record systems to security alarm and video surveillance systems, as well as office furniture. The Rite Group understands the importance of community involvement and investment and is one of the central participants in this region's Habitat for Humanity efforts.

Elsewhere in today's newspaper, we joke in an advertisement that this new calendar will be provided without federal stimulus dollars, higher taxes or other public financing. Government could try to provide what we're offering (and knowing it, eventually it probably will). But they'd do it only after raising your taxes -- and spending a lot more money than necessary. We're doing it with a business model where the cost resides only with private enterprise -- and the big risk is with us, the Missourian. Isn't that how we should do things in America?

If you agree, and you see the value of having a "town center" for community events in print and online, make sure to post your events at semoEvents.com. Or, if you just want to know what's going on -- check out semoEvents.com or Page 2 of the Missourian.

Let's make this area the best -- most informed -- it can be.

jrust@semissourian.com;

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