I have created this Yancey Media site to serve as a vehicle to share my insights and experiences from the front lines of the media revolution.
First, a little bit about me: I started out as a very conventional print journalist, first as a reporter and then as an editor for The Roanoke Times, the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia. Along the way, I won my fair share of awards — I was UPI Young Journalist of the Year back in1984 when I was still young, I was part of a reporting team that was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize for our coverage of the United Mine Workers strike against Pittson Coal in the late 1980s, a strike that foreshadowed the coming battles over health care., I authored the first book about Doug Wilder, the first African-American elected governor of any state, an election that preceded Barack Obama by nearly two decades.
My Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion came in 2008, when I was placed in charge of new ventures. Specifically, I was directed to take a money-losing community news publication and turn it into a money-maker — which I’ve done. (Not that I’ve done it single-handedly, of course.) In the five years since, I’ve been immersed in the evolving economics of newspapers and digital media, and the opportunities and challenges of what some call “hyperlocal” content . I believe here in Roanoke we have evolved an entirely new species of community news product, one that has engaged an audience of women with children in the home that is traditionally beyond the reach of a daily newspaper. Our products may seem like traditional community news publications, and in many ways they are. But they are also on the cutting edge of the industry, I believe. Our community journalists were working out of coffee shops before that became the vogue. Our community publications are web-first, and use the web to reach out to engage readers and solicit content, with our print publications being a kind of “best of” online. However, instead of online killing print, we’ve found just the opposite has happened — our web-first approach makes our print publications even more popular. I believe this is a model that can be successfully exported to other markets.
I have also come to believe that journalists, instead of disdaining the business side of the operation, should embrace it. Profit should not be a dirty word in our lexicon. On the contrary; journalists should be the ones leading the charge to figure out new revenue opportunities; that is the only we will stay in business. Just as it is said that war is too important to be left in the hands of the generals, the media business is too important to be left in the hands of the bean-counters.
Those ideas, and more to come, are the ones I’m here to share and discuss. I’m not looking for theory, but practical ideas that can be put to use that can save journalism.