A story of old-school entrepreneurial journalism

When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail? I received one recently from a woman I met at the Society of Professional Journalists conference in New Orleans in September and it totally made my day.

Becky Dickerson is the editor and publisher of The Community Current in tiny St. John, Wash. We “met” when Dickerson spoke up in the first of two sessions I did about entrepreneurial journalism at the conference and offered a quick version of her story: She started a community newspaper 17 years ago and serves 1,000 homes with a 24-page tabloid that prints every six weeks. (She was kind enough to include a copy of the paper with her letter.)

The town had been without a newspaper for 20 years when Dickerson decided to go into the business of news armed with a journalism degree and an affection for the town of St. John, which she calls “amazing.” (Her husband Todd runs the family farm.) She started the business with a simple letter to businesses asking them to advertise and a credit card to charge her printing expenses.

I spend most of my time talking about shiny new digital startups and the transformation of news in the digital age. But the basic principles that decide whether those businesses work or not are the same that Dickerson used. She met a need in the market and has been rewarded with a career as editor and publisher. While I’ve never visited St. John, I have to believe the community is stronger and much better informed because of her efforts. I wish I had met her in time to include her story in my new book.

Congratulations, Becky. And thanks for the letter.

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