TRIB NOTES/ Tell a good friend you’re starting up a new business in Michigan and you’ll usually get a concerned look that in most cases should probably be interpreted as a highly skeptical, “Good luck with that.”
Tell someone you’re working on project that involves expanding and enhancing a fledgling community newspaper and the look of concern often turns to one of disbelief.
“Really. Are you serious? … Good luck with that.”
Trust me, there were times when I too thought the idea of starting a hometown newspaper — amid a climate of shrinking daily newspaper editions and declining ad dollars directed toward print — sounded, well, frankly, kinda nuts.
Enter Kathy Kane, who, a little over a year ago, had an inspiration to start a newspaper because she thought it would be nice for Trenton to have its own hometown publication.
Eschewing the critics and naysayers who said it “couldn’t be done” or, at the very least “wasn’t a real bright idea,” Kathy said, simply, “I’m doin’ it.”
And she did, launching the Trenton Tribute last September. With virtually no newspaper career experience and limited knowledge of the industry, she had managed to get her first issue on the streets within a matter of a few months of making her bold pronouncement.
Admittedly being one of the people from the “not-a-bright-idea” camp, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Kathy’s determination to find a way to make it work.
Whatever she lacked in general newspaper background she made up for with her Internet marketing skills and her expertise on how to effectively utilize Web-based social media such as Facebook , Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, expanding newspaper’s reach well beyond the more old-school, stand-alone print editions.
It was no longer about rehashing an old idea and reviving a relic from the past. It was about taking a great tradition and molding it into something new and vibrant — with the help of all the interface options the Apple/Google New World Order of Communications has to offer.
It was actually starting to sound like fun — a new twist on something I had always loved to do. So, after months of discussions on what the potential could be if we teamed up, we came up with a way we could pool our efforts to enhance the product and bring it to you monthly instead of every other month — plus online at the freshly launched trentontrib.com, and with regular updates via our email list, our pages on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as through posts to our Twitter account.
Will it survive long-term? Will it make money? While I hope the answer to both is “yes,” I really don’t know for sure. No one does. But, if knowing the answers to those questions were a prerequisite to starting a business, probably the large majority of the businesses operating today would never have opened their doors in the first place. For a venture such as this, those are really the wrong questions to ask. The proper questions should be, “Will it add value to the community?” and, “Will I enjoy doing it?”
As Michigan moves forward, if we hope to attain that elusive “diversified economy” we keep talking about in largely hypothetical terms from one recession to the next, we need more people like Kathy Kane, who are willing to take the calculated risk to do something new and creative even if it doesn’t necessarily come with any guarantees. You call that, “The right thing to do.”
Email Joe Hoshaw at email@example.com