What a joy it is to celebrate community news with some of the best and brightest of South Texas journalists, editors, reporters, publishers and advertising executives. The Pleasanton Express team and their significant others attended the 93rd Annual STPA (South Texas Press Association) Convention in LaGrange this past weekend.
We brought home ten awards including two first places for Display Advertising and Sports Coverage going up against some of the best weekly newspapers in the state of Texas if not the United States. We did not win the Sweepstakes award this year. Yet, I still cried from joy when each division winner’s name was announced. This is because the award is named after my parents – the Bill and Judy Wilkerson Sweepstakes Award – due to their lifelong support, commitment and love of STPA. My parents were one of the few newspapers that faithfully year after year paid for every staff member plus spouses and children to attend this convention. Mom and Dad felt it was the best investment they could make for the best team of newspaper professionals who choose to dedicate themselves to community news. I agree 100 percent.
Currently, the staff at the Pleasanton Express has over 120 years of experience working at this newspaper alone. Every person who works at the Pleasanton Express lives in the county. The majority graduated from high school here. You will not ever find “fake” news in our news organization because we each have a vested interest in our community. We see our readers face-to-face in the lines to pick children up from school, at sporting events, at H-E-B, at city council and ISD meetings, livestock shows, local festivals and happenings, club meetings, volunteer groups, church and the doctor’s office just to name a few. We pay local taxes and are served by the same elected officials. We are neighbors and friends. We drive the same roads. Our parents knew your parents. Our children know your children. When we tell your story, we tell our story.
The Mayor of LaGrange while speaking at the STPA Convention stated that small market newspapers are the connectors of the community. This I believe is true. A community newspaper does not share the tone of polarization that social media seems to breed. We tell stories that are aimed to entertain, engage and inform readers and when necessary motivate them to action for the benefit of the community. We are the curator of the stories of Atascosa County and the Brush Country. We build on the information needs of the community and help to make people feel more attached to where they live, work, play and love. Community-building and solutions-oriented functions are a vital part of the Pleasanton Express. Yes, we serve as a watchdog. But, our dog is more about finding solutions than being on the attack to only identify and spotlight problems. We serve as a local champion of the community and help celebrate what unites us. If there is division, we will tell that story too. But, not for the purpose of selling papers, rather, to find grounds for peace and resolution.
The last 10 years have not been kind to journalists and the newspaper profession. According to the Pew Research Center, the past two decades saw the elimination of 20,000 positions at newspapers across the United States. But, studies have shown that local community newspapers are not only surviving but thriving. We are not simply newspapers anymore, we are the news organization of the community. At the Pleasanton Express we utilize paper, digital and social media to reach 25,000 people weekly with your stories. Thank you for being one of those readers. You mean so much to us. If you have a story that needs to be told, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOEL WILKERSON HOLMES is the Publisher/Managing Editor of the Pleasanton Express. You may E-mail her at email@example.com.