I’ve read somewhere that if a business in the United States lasts 10 years, it’s a good bet it will be around a while longer.
I hope that’s true because this month — July 2021 — LOCAL Community News is celebrating the start of its 10th year. Hard to believe, I know, but here we are.
The print industry has been been hit hard by declining advertising revenue and shrinking circulation, and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters.
A worldwide disease seemed like just another nail in the coffin for traditional, legacy media.
But not for us. Even as dozens of newspapers closed and hundreds of journalists were laid off, LOCAL continued to offer San Antonio’s best source of community news, both in print and online.
I, for one, am looking forward to several more years serving the information needs of the greater San Antonio area.
The journey has been an interesting one for LOCAL, that’s for sure. While today we have legions of fans, our beginnings were very humble.
In the spring of 2012, after deciding to discontinue a glossy food-and-lifestyle magazine called Taste, business associates Gregg Rosenfield, Harold J. Lees and Jaselle Luna opted to create a general-interest newspaper published on a monthly basis targeted to specific ZIP codes. Circulation was based on demographic data in Alamo City neighborhoods and surrounding suburban cities.
Owned by then-parent company Helen Publishing, LOCAL launched two zoned editions in July 2012 serving north and north-central San Antonio.
Rosenfield, a former advertising executive at Prime Time Newspapers Inc., wanted to return to his roots as a publisher of community newspapers. Lees, a longtime friend of Rosenfield’s, was a retired executive from a national food manufacturer.
Luna and Rosenfield worked together in an earlier, non-media venture.
Travis E. Poling — a veteran reporter who’d gained valuable experience at the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Business Journal — was recruited as the original editor.
In November 2012, I was hired as the next editor, and I’ve remained in this post ever since.
I had worked as a longtime police reporter and editor at the Express-News, executive editor at Prime Time Newspapers Inc. and executive editor at Victory Publishing Inc. in Marble Falls. At one time, I wrote a crime column for The Daily Commercial Recorder and was co-host with the legendary Brad Messer of The Crime Show on KTSA radio.
Susan Yerkes, an award-winning columnist with tenure at both the San Antonio Light and the Express-News, was added as a recurring commentary writer about a year after LOCAL was launched.
By December 2012, LOCAL added a third newspaper serving northeast San Antonio. Over time, the chain expanded to five and eventually seven publications delivered to the mailboxes of readers in Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe counties. As demographics and readership changed, some editions became consolidated.
In March 2020, four newspapers were in publication, including a new edition serving the South Side of San Antonio.
As readers saw external changes, there were shifts inside our business as well.
In October 2017, Rosenfield and Lees moved on to other endeavors and Luna became the sole owner and publisher. Under her direction, a revamped website was created and more emphasis was placed on social media, in addition to print.
Much of the online offerings today are directed by Florence Edwards.
During the last couple of years, page views for our online products have dramatically increased, and we’ve added new content, including a wine blog from Olivier J. Bourgoin, aka “The Wine Guy”; a beer column by Poling; and musings on parenting by former television reporter Gina Galaviz Eisenberg.
The Texas Tribune is also a news partner, and LOCAL has entered into occasional productions with NOWCast SA to highlight candidates during political forums.
In print, reader feedback remains overwhelmingly positive, with many citing the papers’ in-depth, hyperlocal coverage of neighborhood news often overlooked by other media outlets.
One of our most recent accomplishments was a series of articles about COVID’s impact on the cities we cover, as part of the Google News Initiative.
In 2019, Luna was named by Editor & Publisher as one of the “25 under 35” among the next generation of newspaper leaders. In July 2020, we added to our staff one of the finest general assignment reporters I’ve ever know, Edmond Ortiz.
Ortiz is another veteran of both the Express-News and Prime Time.
Over the years, LOCAL has received national writing, photography and design awards.
Now, as we embark on our next decade, we’re being innovative again and merging our downtown paper with the editions that reach out to the North Side, Stone Oak and Encino Park.
I’ll let you know how that goes, but I promise not to wait 10 years.