It takes courage to be a newspaper publisher

January 13, 2016

By Ed Henninger
Design Elements

There’s a special moment in the movie “Hoosiers,” where Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) huddles with his players just before the state championship game.

He takes a brief moment, looks them in the eyes, and says: “I love you guys.”

It’s a quiet moment. No blaring trumpets. No whirling action. Just a few seconds that bring another, higher level of meaning to the relationship between the coach and his players.

And that’s how I feel about all of you who work at community newspapers, too.

Many of my happiest moments during my quarter-century as a consultant are those I’ve spent in the newsrooms and conference rooms of community newspapers.

And it’s because of you. Who you are. What you believe in. What you do.

YOU’RE COMMITTED to your community. You want to see your town do well. You’re ready to defend it when it’s threatened by policies, by poor planning, by people who would tear it apart to advance their own agendas or promote their own profit.

YOU BELIEVE in something bigger than yourselves. God, yes. Church, yes. Community, yes. Schools, yes. Sports, yes. All of those. But you also believe in the people and the spirit of those you serve with your reporting and advertising efforts.

YOU WORK HARD. “Work ethic” is a phrase that doesn’t apply to you—because you are so far beyond that in your dedication and your efforts. You’re often the first one in and the last one out. And you’d be happy to stay even longer and work even harder if it means putting out a better paper.

YOU’RE LEARNERS. You’re eager to know if there’s a better/faster way of doing what you do. You want to publish a better product. You’re always on the alert for methods that will help you do that—and you’re ready to spend the time, money and effort it takes.

YOU’RE DEMANDING. You expect the best from yourself and from those who work with you. You want nothing but maximum focus and maximum effort. But …

YOU’RE ACCEPTING. You understand that no one can run full speed all the time. You know that those who work with you have families and lives away from the office—and that those carry obligations and responsibilities that are more important than any story or any ad.

YOU APPRECIATE the efforts of your managers and staff, and you show it. A small office party here, a bonus there, tickets to a game, an expenses-paid trip to the press association banquet—all of those are ways to tell your folks: “Well done!”

YOU’RE POSITIVE. You believe in your success and the success of those who work with you. You understand that when one door closes, another opens. You know how to keep at it, constantly striving, occasionally in the face of daunting circumstances. You succeed because failure is never an option.

YOU ARE COURAGEOUS. You know when you have to take a stand—and you do it. Perhaps your editorial is the lone voice of dissent on an important issue. Still, you say what needs to be said. Perhaps you’re personally threatened by someone who wants you to keep a story out of your paper. But you know you have to run that story—and you do. That takes courage. And you understand that real courage is not the absence of fear, but the understanding that something is more important than fear.

YOU HAVE A SENSE of humor and balance. You’re not afraid to laugh at yourself and your mistakes. And you learn from those mistakes and go on to do better work the next time.

YOU’RE LEADERS. All of the qualities I’ve mentioned (and there are probably some I’ve not thought of) make you a leader in your community. You’re not one the “good ol’ boys.” You’re more than that. Whether you’re the editor, the publisher—whatever—you’re a person others can approach for guidance and support. And you’re always ready to help.

Thank you for being all those things.

I love you guys.

Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact me at or at 803-327-3322.

If this column has been helpful, you may be interested in my books, “Henninger on Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With the help of my books, you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more at © Ed Henninger 2016


ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting. On the Web: Phone: 803-327-3322.


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