El Paso Inc. is now in its 25th year, something we are noting with a few discrete reminders in the run-up to the silver anniversary date later this year. Our chief designer Edgar Gonzalez has woven a little reminder of the event into our front page nameplate, and we will roll out other markers in the days ahead.
It has been a challenging decade for the newspaper industry – especially for dailies. At midweek Warren Buffett announced he is dumping his 31 dailies and other publications on Lee Enterprises for $140 million, having declared them “toast.” But in true Buffett fashion he is lending Lee money for the purchase – $576 million at 9%.
For many publications like El Paso Inc., the story is much brighter. Specialty publications targeting specific niches are thriving, thank you very much. And while the internet will never bring back the heyday of daily newspaper advertising, digital is proving to be a solid and reliable revenue stream for those who can master it. (www.elpasoinc.com)
This anniversary year also is bringing some big changes for El Paso Inc. For starters there is the sale of our building on Porfirio Diaz, our home for 20 years, and the move into our remodeled and refurbished printing warehouse off Texas Street. The warehouse that we are turning into office space is owned by our sister company, PDX Printing.
(In case you are wondering about the buyers, they are Philip and Jessica Seaman, who plan to use the building as the Colonial Penn headquarters for El Paso and other uses that I will leave for them to reveal when they are ready.)
Now that we are in our 25th year, it seems an appropriate moment to review how the publication came to be and whether it has achieved its original goals. Friends and longtime readers may recall that the idea for El Paso Inc. was born in Eastern Europe.
I was traveling those countries back in the day for the Freedom Forum, organizing programs promoting independent news media. That project followed 20 years as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief with The Associated Press and later as editor and publisher of the El Paso Times.
The concept that resulted in El Paso Inc. borrowed elements of a city magazine coupled with a clear and distinctive editorial agenda. In 1995 it seemed to us that El Paso was tripping over a negative self-image. So our strategy was to celebrate success wherever we found it, be it in business, philanthropy or the arts, while also informing the business and professional community of events and trends that may affect their health, wealth and welfare. In reporting on success, we also thought we might inspire and motivate others.
For El Paso Inc. news content, I brought along a few rules from my years at The Associated Press and tried to make sure we followed them. As a reminder to our newer employees, permit me to restate them now:
• There is always another side of the story. Get it before publishing. A great example is what happened when the Gannett owned Little Rock Gazette got the BIG story alleging tax improprieties on the part of Dillard’s Department stores. Dillard’s was headquartered in Little Rock and while there was a token unsuccessful effort to get the other side of the story, the paper published with no offsetting explanation or comment. Dillard’s responded immediately by pulling all advertising.
As I heard the story, John Curley, then Gannett CEO and chairman, rushed to Little Rock in the company jet and, hat in hand, called on Bill Dillard. “John, thank you for coming, but let me make one thing perfectly clear: Dillard’s will NEVER EVER advertise in the Little Rock Gazette again. Soon thereafter Gannett sold the paper to the competing Arkansas Democrat. The point here is that getting the other side of a story is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.
• Let us always assume our readers are at least as smart as we are. They do not need us telling them what to do or how to vote. That is why El Paso Inc. has never endorsed a political candidate, and I hope it never will. But if we lay out fairly and objectively a political candidate’s platform, people can make an informed decision.
• Opinions have no place in a reporter’s story. News should be separate from opinion. If we do run an opinion piece, we need to be sure we have given fair measure to the other side. This served me well in reporting out of dictatorships like Chile and Nicaragua where the censors would read outgoing dispatches before they ever reached the AP foreign desk in New York for world distribution.
So has El Paso Inc. achieved its goals? Well, from a business standpoint we have survived. There is that. With respect to our editorial agenda and some of the principles mentioned above, that’s really for readers to decide. However, one thing is clear today: El Paso is on the move, and I think it has largely shed the negative image that prevailed for so many years when we launched El Paso Inc.
Too, the city has made extraordinary progress toward creating a community with more opportunities and a greater ability to attract and retain young people. Of that we should all be proud, and I hope you will continue to support our coverage of it.