The Hernando Sun newspaper turned five years old in November or will turn five in March. It depends on what you consider the beginning of the newspaper. The first steps where you start to figure out how you go about creating a newspaper or when you actually print your first issue or create a website.
In November of 2014, the Hernando Today newspaper closed. We were concerned that without a local newspaper the area would become a suburb of Tampa, where the majority of the coverage highlighted people, places, and events out of the area. We saw the need and attempted to convince others that we needed to create a newspaper. After a little while we decided our best option was to start the newspaper independently, which was a brave decision since neither of Julie or I had experience as journalists.
In March of 2015, the Hernando Sun newspaper printed its first newspaper. The newspaper had no ads and was only eight pages. The first issue was free and since then the cost has stayed the same at $.75 an issue.
The website debuted earlier, it was first captured by archive.org on December 17, 2014. There were a surprising number of articles on the website at that time. There was significant coverage of the Christmas activities and Julie hand drew a cartoon.
We are planning to celebrate our 5 year anniversary in March. Last year we celebrated turning four in November. There are several important dates and we will celebrate them all. Here is to turning five.
In those five years the Hernando Sun has grown up. We have won several awards from the Florida Press Association, but we are most proud of the numerous thank you and supportive letters we have received from our readers. You truly are our inspiration.
Our readers are also our watch dogs. They call to tell us when our newspapers are buried under other publications, or when our rack has been moved out of the way in the store. We have learned that the delivery personnel of other publications in the area are commission based, which leads to aggressive tactics. Recently, a reader called to let us know that there was a 9 inch stack of circulars on top of our papers at one of the stores. She alerted a manager and asked where the Hernando Sun was. Through her tenacity, the issue was corrected before we even got there. If this reader had not stepped in, then we wouldn’t have sold a single paper. Through the due diligence of our readers, we are able to continue to bring you great local coverage.
In January 2019 the Hernando Sun Newspaper was featured in an article in the Tokyo Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper with a circulation in the millions. The article was about how communities are reacting to their local newspapers closing and this Japanese newspaper chose to highlight Hernando County and the Hernando Sun for their article on changing media in the United States. They spoke with us about choosing to start a newspaper, which is a rarity in America today. Just this week a university student in Boston Massachusetts contacted us with questions about starting a newspaper in reaction to a newspaper closing.
Not only are newspapers closing, but there has been significant consolidation. Gannett which was purchased by Gatehouse although they kept the Gannett brand name, controls hundreds of daily, weekly, community newspapers, and community sites. At the time of their consolidation Gatehouse had over 600 news sources and Gannett had more than 400. This means that a large portion of the “local coverage” is in fact controlled by giant conglomerates.
Local independent newspapers were once the bedrock of this country. These newspapers were shaped by and helped to highlight what was happening in the local community. The owners and the contributors lived in the community that they covered and were able to use this familiarity to make sense of what was happening in the community.
The Hernando Sun is a return to this tradition of a truly local newspaper. As it turns five over its birthday months, it is important to detail how unique our local newspaper truly is. Hernando County has something that few other areas possess, a locally owned, family run newspaper with many contributors from the community. This would not have been possible without the support of the community and we thank you.