When we started the newspaper in late 2014, early 2015 we quickly realized that it was now the baby of the family. In its infancy, the newspaper was quite a bit of work and it still is! It has matured in many ways though and we are proud of the positive impacts it has had on our community.
The first Hernando Sun printed newspaper edition was released in March 2015. This newspaper was an eight-page monthly newspaper and had no ads. The Hernando Sun’s online presence launched earlier in December 2014, since this is the area where we have extensive experience.
The print edition required choosing software to layout the newspaper, we weighed the options from open source Scribus to Adobe InDesign. Adobe InDesign is the industry standard and we choose to use it to layout the Hernando Sun. This means that our editor/publisher/owner Julie Maglio had to quickly come up to speed in InDesign. Building on a keen eye for detail developed as an accomplished artist Julie was able to learn enough InDesign to layout the first newspaper. We also needed to determine who would print the newspaper, what they required, do the necessary legal setup, and develop content.
We were able to accomplish all this in a few short months and had a product released in the first quarter. At that time it required a large effort to print an eight-page monthly newspaper because of limited staff.
The March 2015 issue was the Hernando Suns’ only free issue. After that, the newspaper’s price has consistently been $0.75. Although it is cheaper if you buy a year’s subscription with each individual newspaper costing less than $.61.
The Hernando Sun filled a need in the community. Due to the lack of local coverage in the form of a newspaper Hernando County was considered a news desert. The Hernando Sun provided an oasis in the “news desert” that is Hernando County, identified as such by the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Journalism.
During our first year, we put together a team of ad reps, writers, and photographers; grew our subscription base; and established a retail presence so that by April 2016, we were ready to publish once a week. Our first weekly issue came out on April 1, 2016.
Soon we were carrying public notices which would add to our revenue stream. The number of pages we printed increased to 20.
In 2019, the Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun came to interview the Hernando Sun founders because they started a locally-owned, locally-focused paper and “because it’s something that’s very rare.” Tokyo Shimbun, a major newspaper with a distribution of approximately 3 million used an article on the Hernando Sun to begin a series on the plight of local newspapers in America. The Hernando Sun celebrates this event with our “Kind of a Big Deal in Japan” T-shirts.
Throughout the years, we have received numerous encouraging letters from our readers which keep up our morale. (When the front page is blank on printing day and tasks are piling up before our deadline approaches, it’s comforting to know our efforts are valued.)
A couple of months ago we received a subscription form cut out of the newspaper which made us smile. A question we ask on the form is “How did you hear about Hernando Sun?”
This particular subscriber responded, “I don’t live under a rock.”
This was a satisfying answer to us because one of our biggest challenges has been to make people aware of our existence. And this one small comment made us feel like we hit a milestone.
Theresa wrote to us,
“Dear Rocco and Julie, You’ll never know how much I enjoy this little paper!”
“I appreciate the Hernando Sun so much, that I feel I need it to follow me for the Summer.”
These kind words provide enthusiasm that enables our team to persist through the figurative slings and arrows. The encouragement is greatly appreciated and spurs on the efforts of a small group of contributors to put together an award-winning newspaper that punches well beyond its weight.
In 2020, we brought home first place awards in The Florida Press Association’s Weekly newspaper contest for both Community History and Agricultural and Environmental Reporting, Division C.
For several years, we have been growing our Newspapers in Education program, where we provide a free weekly newspaper to students around the county. Every week we also create a teacher guide, providing ideas on how to use the newspaper in the classroom. Newspapers are provided to any student whether the student is learning through public, private, home, or online school. Teachers or parents can sign up for this program.
The page count of The Hernando Sun is now usually 20 or 24 pages. This year we were awarded the printing of the tax rolls for Hernando County which means in May the Hernando Sun will contain around a 90 to 100-page INSERT IGNORE. The team continues to provide high-quality coverage of local news in Hernando County with our online coverage going back more than six years. Hernando County’s little local paper is starting to grow up.