The wonderful and difficult role of publisher

Published 9:40 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

Being a publisher of a newspaper is quite possibly the most unique job there is. We have the task of trying to not only lead a team, but a community.

C.K. Blandin was a well-known publisher as well as an owner of the Minneapolis Tribune and Saint Paul Pioneer Press in the early 1900s and is now more widely known after his death in 1958 as the person responsible for the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation and its Blandin Community Leadership Program.

C.K. Blandin said this about publishing a newspaper:

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“If we publish original matter, they say we don’t give them enough selections; if we don’t we are lazy. If we ‘puff’ a man we are partial. If we compliment the ladies, the men are jealous; if we don’t, we are publishing a paper not fit to make a bustle of. If we remain in our office, we are too proud to mingle with the common ‘herd’; if we’re on the streets, we’re not attending to our business. If we don’t go to church, we are heathens, and if we go, we are hypocrites.”

This was written in the Olivia Weekly Press decades ago, and it is amazing how true it still rings today.

The newspaper business, which is now a multimedia business that includes Internet, direct mail, text messages, glossy magazines and a multitude of niche marketing channels, is, if done right, a place for a community to turn to. Having a community to turn to you is a large burden and one that I believe every publisher takes quite seriously. I like to say that we have big shoulders here at the Tribune and that means we have to take the good with the bad, we need to shine the light on what is good in a community, but also protect those that need protecting against in cases of gross injustice and abuse. We are here every day to be judged by you, the reader on our content, opinions and the general way we help drive our community.

Publishing a daily paper is knowing that on one page of your product you may be loved by the reader, yet in turning to the next page, the same reader will loathe you. We are loved and hated with the same passion, and that is a unique position to be in.

Our goals are to stir debate and provoke thought in the reader and to have this process be brought to the light so that better dialogue and communications can lead to informed and correct decision making.

We are often blamed for leaning to one side or the other, often by each side and often in the same day. And you know what? Good. We are doing our job. To be a leader, you must be fair, but you must also speak the truth and print the facts.

You may wonder what my favorite part of our media is, and I will tell you that I love when we print, or post online, all the community pictures with the business representatives shaking hands with one another and then on another page we will have children and teens being highlighted for a sport, a music recital, or an educational highlight at their local school.

Looking at the photos, you get to see the prideful glory of a person who is just bursting with a sense of accomplishment. That sense of accomplishment is what I live for. I love when I know that an article or a picture is going to end up on the refrigerator of a parent or grandparent who is filled with pride.

My least favorite part is seeing tragedy. I hate to see a young person in an accident or turning to obituaries and finding a 4-year-old who just died from cancer. We at the Tribune are humans and the same things that make you shake your head and cringe are the same things that make us shake our heads and cringe and sometimes cry. It does not alter our reporting on these subjects, but it does make us have to bite our lip just a little harder or take a deep breath prior to clicking on the keys of our computer.

So you see that being a publisher sure can run the gamut of emotion. Luckily, I am surrounded with an amazing team and I get to see and be a part of an amazing community with people that care. Thank you to everyone who takes part in my life and our news organization. Please feel free to call me with any suggestions or ideas you ever have for our company.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.