‘Every morning my family gathered at the breakfast table to read the newspaper’
December 2, 2014
Open government at the forefront of business for Matt Adelman
By Teri Saylor
Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary
att Adelman’s many years of hard work in the Freedom of Information arena have paid off, and today he can say with confidence that public officials in his community are all for open government.
The City of Douglas, WY, where Adelman lives and publishes the Douglas Budget, has four year’s worth of financial statements posted on its website for the world to see.
And that’s not all.
Douglas is the seat of Converse County, and that county treasurer’s office has set up its own link to OpenGov.com, a platform for in-depth financial reporting and accountability to the public.
Adelman has been a mighty First Amendment advocate since he was old enough to read his hometown newspaper.
He grew up in Casper, loving his news in print, thanks to a family engaged in their community through their local newspaper.
“Every morning my family gathered at the breakfast table to read the newspaper,” he said.
It was a habit that launched him on his newspaper career at age 13, when he ran a paper route. From there, he moved on to high school journalism, writing features and shooting photos for his school newspaper. He transitioned into his local newspaper in Casper, launching his professional career. He was recently elected to the National Newspaper Association board, representing Region 10 (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming).
Adelman grew up believing fervently in the power of the First Amendment, which he considers the cornerstone of democracy and the public’s right to know.
Educated at Casper College and the University of Utah, he returned straight home after college to pursue his passion in the place he loves the most.
“I started with Sage Publishing in 1988 as a reporter at the Budget, then transferred to the Cody Enterprise until 1994, when I came back to the Budget as publisher,” he said. “We purchased the Independent in 2007.”
Sage Publishing is the parent company of the Budget and the Independent.
Douglas is located 45 miles east of Casper, and Glenrock sits halfway between the two towns.
It’s early in November—not even winter yet, but the cold has settled in, and already the temperatures hover in the single digits.
Douglas is home to the Wyoming State Fair, the High Plains Music Festival, Douglas Railroad Days, Cowboy Christmas and the Jackalope.
The Jackalope, a fabled creature, is part jackrabbit and part antelope, conceived in 1932 when a local taxidermist tossed a rabbit’s carcass next to a pair of antlers. This accidental marriage of animal parts sparked a legend that is just as popular today as it was more than 80 years ago.
The City of Douglas even issues Jackalope hunting licenses to tourists, good for hunting during official Jackalope season, which lasts just one day—June 31, according to the Douglas Chamber of Commerce website.
This bit of whimsy makes Douglas unique and appeals to visitors who travel to Douglas to camp, hike, mountain bike, fish, hunt and watch for wildlife.
Located in the central, eastern part of Wyoming, Douglas is home to the longest running uranium mine in the country, and the area is ripe with oil and gas operations. Wind farms are becoming prolific.
Douglas is a railroad town, founded in 1886 near the U.S. Army’s Fort Fetterman when the Wyoming Central Railway selected the town for its rail station. The Budget was founded that same year, and the Independent started up in 1922. They are among 44 newspapers in Wyoming, all of which are a close-knit group, according to Adelman.
“All of our newspapers are high-quality, demanding operations, and among the best in the country,” Adelman said. “Across the board, we value open government and public records.”
Public officials are beyond cooperative.
“They even call us when they mess up,” Adelman said. “They would rather be honest and open than hide. They know we are going to find out anyway.”
The First Amendment has staying power, but the newspaper industry is changing. Adelman not only recognizes this; he’s actively doing something about it in his market.
“We are no longer a weekly newspaper,” he said. “We are a 24-hour news channel.”
Online, the Budget and Independent are daily news operations, full of breaking news on sports scores, road closures, wrecks, fires and other events.
“Our print products explore issues in depth,” Adelman said. “We publish more features and news features. We’re searching for deeper background and more details. The Internet allows us to post breaking news constantly, and people expect news immediately, but they still want more in-depth journalism.”
While other newspapers are laying off staff and cutting back, Adelman is hiring.
“We just hired a full-time new media director,” he said. “We have expanded our newsroom, and we’re still short-handed all the time.”
Competition is nearby, but is not a threat.
“We dominate the market in local news,” Adelman said.
The nearest Wal-Mart is 1½ hours away. There is little retail in the rural community, and advertising comes from grocery and hardware stores, farm supply businesses and other local establishments. The Budget and Independent attract national advertising from stores and businesses in Casper looking to expand their reach.
Although Wyoming is one of the largest states in landmass, its entire population is just 700,000.
The newspapers are available on newsstands and by subscription, but the single-copy sales far eclipse subscriptions.
Workers in the energy business pick up copies to read on their shuttles to work.
Some readers don’t like to wait for their newspapers to arrive in the mail, so they line up in the evenings and wait for them to return from the printing press, or pick them up first thing the next morning.
The Budget is published on Wednesdays, and the Independent comes out on Thursdays.
Both newspapers have vibrant social media platforms, and their online subscriptions are growing.
“The newspaper industry is undergoing major changes and upheavals,” Adelman said. “We’ll lose some papers, and others will survive and thrive. It all depends on how hard you want to work and embrace the future.”
Although Adelman is facing the future with electronic news delivery, he is still married to newsprint and ink. It’s like comfort food for him.
“I still drink my coffee while reading the newspaper every morning, just like I did when I was a kid,” he said. “Grandparents still like to clip pictures of their grandkids and put them on the refrigerator.”
He cannot ask for more than that.
Name of Newspapers: The Douglas Budget/Glenrock Independent.
Publisher/Owner: Matt Adelman.
How many years have you been with the Budget? The Glenrock Independent? I started with Sage Publishing (parent company) in 1988 as a reporter at the Budget, then transferred to the Cody Enterprise until 1994, when I came back to the Budget as publisher. We purchased the Independent in 2007.
What are the circulations at the Budget and the Independent? The Budget’s circulation is 4,450, and the Independent’s circulation is 1,150 in print. Several hundred more subscribe online and to the mobile daily/breaking news alerts.
What are your publication schedules? The Budget publishes Wednesday, and the Glenrock Independent publishes on Thursday.
What is your newspapers’ mission statement? To work, as a team, to cover our communities in all aspects with quality and professionalism.
How many people are employed at the Budget and the Independent? Currently 24, with a potential of 27.
What are your biggest challenges? Finding and retaining quality staff who understand modern diverse communication needs.
What are your biggest rewards? Producing a quality news and advertising product that meets and consistently exceeds our readers’ and viewers’ demands.
What are your top goals for 2015? To strengthen and expand our mobile and online coverage, continue building on the success of our print products and continue to explore additional opportunities while expanding local news coverage.
What are your newspapers’ most distinguishing characteristics? Strong news and photography, which blankets our entire coverage area, making both papers the top news sources in their communities.
What is one thing you will never change? Change is inevitable, so adapting to it is crucial to survival and success. We are open, and often embracing, of that change while remaining faithful to our core business, which is print.