What doesn’t work for print media often works for online mediaExecutives assume that regional, state, and national news find an audience in local newspapers. This is where we differ, as we garner roughly the same website traffic for local news as they do for other news formats. In print media, most people don’t want to re-read news that was already published in larger publications or on the evening national TV news. Again, we differ because the web traffic for this type of content is consistent across all levels of coverage. But as local newspapers lost sight of local issues, local events, and local people, we at Heartland Newsfeed try to fill the gap whenever possible. After all, it’s just me running things on a day-to-day basis.
I’m a statistic to “The Great Resignation” from corporate mediaOn December 31, 2021, I left a corporate media job that I held for nearly a year because of the above reasons. It wasn’t because of my co-workers. It was because management treat their employees like an employee ID than human beings. In that time, I garnered media relationships with many communities, relationships that were abandoned when I left. I plan to change that in a few months. A month before I left, I formed Heartland Media Group of Central Illinois. (A filing for an LLC is still pending completion.) The group oversees the operations of this online publication. It also manages the operations of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, as well as the podcast archives of the radio network and its standalone podcast network. One of the other services the company offers is the delivery of print newspapers from a printing facility in Virden, Illinois for newspapers in northeast-central Illinois. This particularly includes newspapers based in Douglas and Coles counties.
Expanding to print media is harder than I thoughtSince I started Heartland Newsfeed in December 2016, I did not imagine any consideration of expanding to print. I wanted to stick to online-only. However, in those five years, I’ve seen local and regional newspapers go under because a regional news company or a media conglomerate shut them down. How many newspapers have closed in Central Illinois since New Year’s Eve 2016? 54. How many newspapers have closed within a 50-mile radius of our home office? 39 of those 54. I’ve even attempted to contact the former publisher to take over and bring forth a new era for these “graveyard papers.” Apparently, the process is more difficult than I thought. Let’s just say it’ll take three to five years just to revive one defunct newspaper. This is even without an active trademark or surviving individual to establish a sale of intellectual property related to said newspaper. I tend to be a media history buff, hence my initial interest in the papers previously owned by Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers. My interest was directed at two newspapers: the Champaign-Urbana Courier and the Metro-East Journal. These two papers were not part of the buyout deal in 1979 when the majority of their newspapers were bought by Lee Enterprises. The problem is the final generational heir in the Lindsay-Schaub media empire passed in 2020. Dead end. Good luck getting help from the Illinois State Archives or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Not a single trace. While it looks like we won’t be expanding to print media anytime soon. it appears the only way we get there is to start a newspaper from scratch.
So our plans going forward…For the continued longevity of this publication, it takes a village, town, or city to make a small media outlet work. It relies on you as much as it relies on me to publish them on deadline. News is the product, but advertising pays the bills. We would like to have an equal balance of that. That would require an active effort by businesses and the publication alike to make it all happen. I can only publish what’s submitted to me, so it requires an effort by the communities at large and the reader. We need tips. We need sources. We’d like to know what’s going on across central Illinois. The same is true via our ten-year plan for northeastern, east-central, St. Louis Metro, and southeastern Missouri, as well as a 20-year plan to cover 30+ counties across Central Illinois. We’d like to hear from you. Our main office number is (217) 569-4230. As the editor-in-chief, I can also be contacted via my mobile phones: (217) 565-9273 and (217) 565-9709. You can email the newsroom by emailing email@example.com. While we work out of a home office, I can usually meet at a venue where you want to meet. Even as a digital-online news product, we want to hear from our readers.
Follow Jake Leonard on Twitter @JakeLeonardJRN and Heartland Newsfeed @HLNF_Bulletin on Twitter. Additionally, you can follow Heartland Newsfeed on Facebook and Reddit among other platforms. You can now follow our news updates on Telegram, Flote, and MeWe. Support independent journalism. Become a patron on Patreon for as little as $1 a month. There are other donor options as well. Get the latest news updates on our radio network via Spreaker, TuneIn, and other platforms.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.