‘I practice boots-on-the-ground journalism’
June 5, 2012
By Teri Saylor
Special to Pub Aux
Jessica Lloyd-Rogers and her husband, Jerry Schneider, just might have the smallest newspaper office in the country.
Tucked away in a little coffee shop and dance palace called Jitterbug n Java in Reedsport, OR, the tiny 5 foot by 7 foot space is home to The Coast Lake News, a community newspaper that covers 10 counties along the southwest Oregon coast.
The husband and wife team cover the local news “the old-fashioned way,” as Lloyd-Rogers likes to put it.
The newspaper’s motto is “we dig the news.”
“I practice boots on the ground journalism,” she said. “I write the stories that need to be written. The truth is what the truth is, and I’ll pursue it until I shuffle off this mortal coil.”
On her LinkedIn profile she lists as her specialties: “coloring outside the lines, connecting people in (the) community, leading and facilitating, marketing with imagination and effectiveness, tying a variety of income streams into an organic whole.”
Lloyd-Rogers and Schneider started The Coast Lake News after they married in 2008. Schneider ran a coffee shop and bookstore until the economy dropped, forcing the couple to shut the shop’s doors.
Living on Schneider’s Social Security income, with no advertisers or subscribers lined up, the couple started a weekly newspaper, and with gumption, determination, goodwill and a flexible attitude have managed to stay in business through the worst part of the recession.
This past May marked the newspaper’s fourth anniversary.
“It has been an interesting road, and I am happy, happy, happy, to be here,” Lloyd-Rogers said. “I started from scratch, operating on instinct with no advertisers or subscribers. My attitude was like one of those old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies—‘Let’s put on a show.’ ”
Community newspaper publishers are varied and eclectic. Some publishers have maintained family ownership and management for years. Some have rescued foundering newspapers from the brink. Others have parlayed a corporate newspaper career into their own business.
Lloyd-Rogers seized a moment to start The Coast Lake News based on her love for writing and truth seeking.
She does not have a journalism degree, although she has taken college-level classes. She maintains her education comes from the school of hard knocks and experience.
Passion plays a role in her career choice, too.
“When I was young, I thought I’d be a famous novelist. But I loved pursuing truth, and I am very curious about people,” she said. “My teachers always encouraged me to write.”
When Lloyd-Rogers was a high school sophomore, a teacher gave her a journal with a note in it encouraging her to keep writing. That was enough to give her the confidence to get started.
As a child, she suffered in an abusive home environment and went out on her own at 14, living on the streets and getting by as best she could.
She served in the Army, got married, became a mother, and got divorced. She has worked in a variety of professions: as a barista, a paralegal and as the executive director of nonprofit organizations. Through it all, writing remained a constant.
She has been writing and publishing for 36 years now.
“I am 55-years old, and there has been a lot of living in those 55 years,” she said.
The southeast coast of Oregon is scenic and remote. The nearest metro area is Eugene, more than two hours away.
When Lloyd-Rogers started The Coast Lake News, she covered the small town of Lakeside, where there was no locally owned newspaper. The World, a Lee Enterprises publication with a bureau nearby, covers Lakeside, along with many other communities in that region of the state.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Lakeside is home to 1,700 people. The population is predominantly white, with a third more than 65 years old. City-data.com estimates the median household income is $25,781.
Lakeside is a popular vacation and retirement destination along scenic Tenmile Lakes. The lakes get their name from a saying long adopted by the locals whenever anyone asks how far Lakeside is from other places. The response is always “Oh, about 10 miles.”
Lloyd-Rogers hails from California, and lived in Hawaii for 13 years before moving back to the mainland to be with her brother, who was ill with cancer. She settled back into Santa Cruz, CA, and continued writing. Her daughter graduated from high school in Santa Cruz, moved on and is now married.
Lloyd-Rogers did not know she needed a change until another brother encouraged her to move to Oregon, and there she met Schneider, married him, and started the newspaper. The paper’s coverage area has expanded beyond Lakeside.
For Lloyd-Rogers and Schneider, the journey has been rewarding but not easy.
Along the way, Lloyd-Rogers encountered small town politics, and a local blogger who tried to run her out of business. Members of the local town council, angered by her coverage, encouraged advertisers to boycott her newspaper.
Bolstered by supportive readers and advertisers, The Coast Lake News is hanging on. The newspaper converted its publishing schedule from weekly to monthly last winter, but Lloyd-Rogers is planning to increase its frequency as the tourist season starts. She manages an online version, and likes that format because it is more immediate and less expensive to produce, but she continues to publish a print edition for older readers who don’t use the Internet.
The press run is 1,000 during the tourist season, and around 700 in the off-season. Each six-page issue costs about $300 to print.
Readers get the paper through subscriptions and single-copy sales.
On her wish list is an ad salesperson.
Neither Lloyd-Rogers nor Schneider consider themselves natural at ad sales, but they work as a team and make it work.
“We do what’s practical,” she said. “If we don’t sell, we don’t print, and if we don’t print, we don’t eat.”
Lloyd-Rogers has vowed never to give up.
“My mastery is pigheadedness and determination,” she said.
Lloyd-Rogers’ survival instincts were honed by her years living on the street and a lifetime of doing whatever it takes to keep going and to keep writing. She wants to be a voice for those who have no voice in society, and identifies with them.
But most of all, she wants to be known for sticking to her guns, for being a trustworthy journalist, and for her ability to dig up a good story.
Name of Newspaper: The Coast Lake News.
Name of Publisher: Jessica Lloyd-Rogers
How long have you owned The Coast Lake News? We began publishing the paper in May 2009, originally under the name North County News. We changed the name to the Coast Lake News with our first issue of January 2010.
What was the driving force behind starting the newspaper? I wanted to see ‘someone’ start a newspaper in Lakeside for the 2.5 years I had lived there. We had closed our restaurant because of the economy and were looking for another entrepreneurial venture. One day, my new husband, Jerry, said, “Honey, couldn’t you run a newspaper?” And so it began.
Your newspaper’s circulation? We print 1,000. We have 300-plus subscribers and sell another 350-600 depending on the season.
Frequency of publication? We were weekly through 2011 when we temporarily moved to monthly while we re-grouped. We hope/plan to go weekly again in June/July 2012.
How is the newspaper distributed? We deliver by vehicle and mail. We are planning to offer e-mailed PDF versions of the paper.
List some top goals for the next six months or year? Hire an excellent productive sales rep/ad person; push our subscriber list to more than 500; make our website a daily news site without compromising our weekly print edition; make the paper pay for itself and us (this includes retiring our debt).
What are you most proud of? Continuing to print accurate news and inform the community in the face of personal threats and public defamation, loss of advertisers, and attacks. Finally, my ‘pigheaded persistence and determination’ paid off.
What is your newspaper’s most distinguishing characteristic? We are the only independent, locally owned, locally operated newspaper in our coverage area. As such, we are not afraid to ‘speak truth to power’ via factual news stories and analysis backed up with public records.
What keeps you going to work day after day? There is always another story to be told and more questions to be answered.
What is your newspaper’s biggest challenge? There are two—money and time. As a bootstrap operation, we are continually underfunded. And there are only two of us, only 24 hours in a day, and much to be done.
How do you view your newspaper’s role in the communities it covers? We are a vital source of accurate information based on public records. We have been repeatedly thanked for explaining complex issues so that the average person understands them.
Does your newspaper have a mission statement? ‘We dig the truth.’
What do we love to hear from readers? “I never knew that. Thank you.”
One thing you’d never change? Our independence.