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Opinion: Finding Success in Failure

Written By Timothy Knight on 8/25/15 | 8/25/15

Life was going pretty well: I was working as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper; my college GPA was a 4.0; and, although less than desirable, my part time job of working in a local deli was tolerable. 

Then I decided with my soon to be had Associate's Degree set to be in my hands, that I would try something risky. I would open my very own newspaper in a media landscape where four papers were already present.

Risky and ballsy. 

I knew the trends: online advertising was going up, newspaper circulation was going down, and uninformed bloggers would be all that remained. It's actually rather ironic, because I got my start in local media as a citizen journalist online, and from there, I have never looked back. 

My thought process went a little something like this - I was twenty-one years old - therefore, if I found success in print media, then wonderful. But, if not, which was more likely, I would still likely be in my twenty-something years and I would be more than capable of recreating myself. 

I just didn't imagine how quick I would have the chance to recreate myself. 

After thirteen weeks of publishing a weekly newspaper that I reported in, got ads for, designed, edited, managed, and then on every Tuesday afternoon when everything else was completed, I delivered 90% of the product countywide, the paper and I reached our inevitable end. 

The paper's finances were in rough shape and my sanity was teetering on the verge of being totally lost, due to overworking and lack of reward. 

A labor of love does not come remotely close to describing how soul crushing it was to invest so much time (40-50 hours per week) for so little payoff (often less than $200 per paycheck), because that's all the business could afford. 

As everyone could probably guess, I love writing with a passion, but I do not enjoy working for $4 per hour running my own business when I made over $11 per hour cutting hot capicola before.

So, in retrospect, was it worth the trouble? The answer is: absolutely yes. 

My lifelong dream was to own a newspaper, and I had just enough money and just enough foolishness to actually attempt it, while still being young enough to recover if it did not pan out as I had hoped. 

Although most of my supporters have been understanding of the difficulties I faced, many have been far less understanding and have either branded me a quitter for not sticking it out or incompetent for not incurring debt. 

To the first set of naysayers, I ask of you: how many newspapers have you tried launching in the twenty-first century? Oh... none. That's what I thought. You may be seated and be silent for the rest of this article. Thank you. 

To the second set of naysayers, I offer the following explanation: I lost thousands of dollars in this endeavor; more than half of my pre-paper net worth has been lost forever, as well as investments from friends with no strings attached. There was and is simply no way I was willing to further put my and others financial stability at risk for a dream.

A dream that I have learned a lot from, but I was not willing to give everything up for, because you will always have your dreams, but they don't always pay your bills. 

I am a writer and I am a journalist. I strive to cover the news objectively and to hold the corrupt accountable... but I am not an entrepreneur. I do not have the business prowess of Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, but the drive of Upton Sinclair and Bob Woodward. 

The Schoharie News print edition was a failure, but a necessary one. I not only learned more about the news media landscape of Schoharie County and of the financial struggles that rural newspapers face nationwide, but I also learned about who I am and what I am capable of. 

Judging by the stories my team and I were able to produce: I know my place is in journalism, because if our material was that good under that much pressure, there's no telling what our potential is in the future under better conditions. 

And that, despite the failures and lessons encountered, is why I consider the endeavor a success in the end, because although I didn't become the next great media mogul in the fashion of William Hearst, I gave it my best and I now know that for whatever success I have in the years to come, it wouldn't have been possible without this bump in the road. 
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1 comments:

Norie61 said...

Tim, I so wanted you to succeed, and was in your corner since I first read anything you wrote. What interested me was your investigative journalism, how you got to the brass tax of things. When you went to print edition you seemed to have lost that. I bought your paper and to be honest, totally hated it! It was just another paper in my view. What appealed to me and many others was missing, maybe due to lack of free time to investigate or delve into a story or could it be just a lack of interest, I don't know.I was totally disappointed. I still wish you well and hope you will continue to write, investigate and inform us all of what's going on in this county.

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