The Joys and Pitfalls of Operating a Small-Town News Service
Alamogordo is a unique community in that it is basically a town without a legitimate major news provider. Like many small rural communities, the local community stopped supporting the local paper, the paper struggled and was eventually acquired by a national media conglomerate. The result now the public complains, because there is no consistent local coverage and dedicated local reporting.
2nd Life Media saw that gap in coverage and felt the community of Alamogordo deserves local coverage. March of 2021 2nd
Life Media Inc launched the AlamogordoTownNews.com site as an alternative to get local news, local sports coverage and local business and non-profit events covered and before the public realm. The week of launch the online publication had 20 readers and the focus was initially on downtown revitalization and sports coverage. Now we have over 6000 readers.
On March 21st, 2021, we published our first story announcing the launch of this new service we market at AlamogordoTownNews.com…
“Hello to Southern New Mexico. We love the history of the Alamogordo News but believe it is time that more local news coverage of sports, politics and small business comes to Alamogordo. So, in collaboration with the local community and in support of building Alamogordo into an art, entertainment, tourism capital of Southern New Mexico. We begin this journey together. If you have news stories you would like to see published, please email me at CoachEdwards@2ndLifeMedia.com. with story details, photos and more. Let's work together to create a real local positive community newspaper. We look forward to working with our community together in positivity.”
Our first several stories announced the Marilyn Sepulveda Scholarship Fund encouraging applicants, a focus on New York Avenue small businesses and sports coverage. As Covid restrictions loosened up we began more focus and the arts and cultural initiatives within Alamogordo and the potential growth and investment by small business entrepreneurs. As elections and politics took center stage we covered highlights of municipal elections, interviewed candidates, and found ourselves digging deeper and asking more candidate questions then the traditional newspaper. All along the way our readership grew significantly.
While delving into the political antics of Couy Griffin, John Block, Karl Melton, and the machines that run the political leadership of Otero County we hit on the nerves and the comfort of some of the establishment.
We have been called a right-wing talking piece by those on the left and attacked harshly by Couy Griffin supporters and the Trumpian brigade on the right. Given we have been equally criticized by the old guard chairmen of both political parties, that reinforced to our board of advisors, we are on the right track of being fair, allowing for each party to be heard, and balanced, in that both sides staying equally critical of our coverage, as it does not favor either.
Our coverage can be critical, asks questions and looks beyond the walls of Otero County and Alamogordo at precedent. We seek advise and reach out to academia and other media sources to validate information, to seek history or background and to reach a perspective that extends beyond Alamogordo and Otero County.
Our favorite stories to run are on the personalities and business leaders that are carrying Alamogordo forward into prosperity and those with a vision or passion. Stories on COPE, published stories in Influence Magazine, ongoings of the Flickinger Center, Alamogordo MainStreet investment and people making a positive difference to our community are our favorite stories to create. Stories on STEM and Academic successes of high school students are always fun to create. Stories on sports success and highlights of high school sports successes always bring joy to our faces when writing them in partnership with other media partners.
We have a great working relationship with the local radio stations and deep partnerships that help us with news tips and getting information to the public with many nonprofits, those in the faith community and the resources of government.
AlamogordoTownNews.com believes we have made a positive impact with our commitment to get information out to the local community that is missing by the traditional new sources.
Is there room for improvement? Certainly, YES!
We operate on a shoestring budget, and we do the best we can with limited resources. We would we like to hire a team of reporters certainly. With the public support that may happen in the upcoming years. We’d love to launch a print edition, someday, but as media evolves print is devolving, so time and financing will determine if that is feasible in the future.
Running a local news publication can be tricky and can be dangerous in some people’s eyes.
When we exposed some of the political antics of Couy Griffin, we had a gentlemen come into our place of business wielding a gun, telling us that gun rights trump our right of free speech. We quickly reminded him amendment one, is that of free press, and we are not intimidated by a gun wielding lunatic. The pen is mightier than the sword in the end. An armed idiot in our place of business is met with like force.
When we ran stories counter to the propaganda of John Block and Karl Melton, again we hit home with facts that made them uncomfortable. Rather than respond in a mature matter of political rhetoric. they went on the offensive, and personally attacked the authors and the businesses owned by 2nd
Life Media Inc. They then went on and tried to impede the right of the author to petition and vote, attempted to assassinate the reputation of the affiliated businesses and ownership, and may have violated laws around voter suppression and intimidation. Investigations will determine if rights were violated. A free press won’t be intimidated into silence by character assassination and tactics of intimidation.
A free press that is open to challenge those in authority ensures a free society. Amendment One is Intentional by our founding fathers.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Political coverage appears to be the most controversial coverage we provide via AlamogordoTownNews.com.
While we prefer the more positive coverage of community events, business success, and sports sadly the political stories drive the most readers and engagement.
Just yesterday we were asked by a seated County Commissioner who filed a restraining order against a former commissioner to “not litigate this issue in the public realm” and “which side are you on?”
Our response is the same to this Democratic leader as it was to our Republican leaders. Our job is to keep the public informed on those issues or cases that are of interest to the public and in the public realm.
Elected leaders that take actions are in the public realm, and we will cover the story, if there is an interest to the public. We are not on any side of the issue. We ran stories on precedent in the courts to these types of actions by elected leaders and the public.
We seek to inform the public on precedent and on any situation that could potentially impact Amendment One or any of the founding principles of a free society.
2nd Life Media and AlamogordoTownNews.com has expanded with readership now in the thousands. We now partner with additional outlets such as its sister publication AlamogordoConservativeDaily.org which publishes stories of local interest on several different platforms and via a Newsbreak Newsletter.
We, of course operate on a shoestring budget. If you would like to support an independent citizen driven news source, we appreciate contributions to the primary news site.
Some small newspaper facts:
The total advertising revenue for locally focused U.S. daily newspapers in 2020 was $1.07 billion, based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies. This is down 40% from 2019, much steeper than the 25% decline the overall newspaper industry experienced during the same time.
The United States has lost almost 1,800 papers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Roughly half of the remaining 7,112 in the country – 1,283 dailies and 5,829 weeklies – are in small and rural communities. The vast majority – around 5,500 – have a circulation of less than 15,000 consistent with our readership and that of the Alamogordo Daily News.
Vanishing Readers: Print readers are disappearing even faster than print newspapers, and the pace appears to be accelerating.
Over the past 15 years, total weekday circulation - which includes both dailies and weeklies – declined from 122 million to 73 million.
While more and more readers prefer to receive news online, this dramatic loss has been driven not only by changes in reader preference, but also by the business decisions of newspaper owners. The decrease in daily circulation comes primarily from the pullback of metro and regional newspapers from distribution to outlying rural and suburban areas. In contrast, much of the loss in weekly circulation since 2004 comes from the closure of more than 1,700 weeklies.
This decrease in print readers raises serious questions about the long-term financial sustainability of both small community and large metro newspapers.
Web hosting, marketing recruitment, posting time, research and creative all takes resources. Contributions help keep an alternative news and media source viable. We ask that you shop local with our local advertisers and sponsors and shop in our local storefronts on New York Avenue.
If you feel generous enough to directly contribute to our news enterprise, we will recognize you if you so desire as a special supporter of a free and independent press. Some donors prefer to remain quiet and discrete. We respect those sponsors and donors to the AlamogordoTownNews.com operations as well and their need for discretion. We keep in confidence our donors and supporters except those who give permission to use their support in public.
This holiday season from our family to yours, thank you for the support! We look forward to an interesting and even more engaging 2023. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. May you have a blessed and prosperous New Year.
Rene Sepulveda, Chris Edwards and the staff and family of 2nd
Life Media, AlamogordoTownNews.com and AlamogordoConservativeDaily.org and our podcasts, thank you!