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Hernando Sun Goes to Washington

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The co-founders of the Hernando Sun attended the National Newspaper Association (NNA) conference in Washington, DC. Attending these conferences aims to network with other newspapers, find inspiration, exchange ideas, and discover vendors that will improve our readers’ and advertisers’ experiences.

The Hernando Sun now has a list of tasks to implement new ideas and products we discovered at the conference. We are also going to work on better integrating our products since many of our vendors were at the conference, and we discussed how their software could be integrated to better serve our customers. This is, of course, in addition to putting out a newspaper every week.

The attendees are deeply involved in newspapers, and many of the challenges are the same throughout the country. Another interesting takeaway is how dedicated these local newspapers are to producing their newspapers. A lady told a story of how she was on bed rest for six weeks, and finally, the baby was ready to be delivered. The doctor said that she could have her C-section on Tuesday. She and her husband run a newspaper, and Tuesday is when they go to print. Wednesday was also out of the question because they had to get the paper out and delivered. She told the doctor that she could do it on Thursday. He was shocked and could not believe someone on bed rest had just asked to wait two more days, but that is how dedicated they are to producing these newspapers. Amazingly, that was not a unique story in the newspaper world. One of the other publishers was happy to hear this story because he said, “My wife never lets me live down her experience.” He immediately texted the story to his wife. For many weekly newspapers, Tuesday and Wednesday are crunch time, and everything else has to be put on hold to get the newspaper out on these days.

This illustrates the dedication of the people who produce local newspapers. There are also newspapers with little dedication; these are usually local newspapers bought by any of a number of newspaper chains. After the buyout, a majority of the staff is let go, and a skeleton crew is left to produce the newspaper. They have little to no local coverage and mostly print press releases and wire service articles. These are zombie newspapers. They are dead but still produce a newspaper for ad revenue. These zombie newspapers are an insult to the dedication of true local newspapers, and they mar the industry as a whole.

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The NNA is primarily made up of rural, small to medium-sized newspapers that deliver their products through the mail via a periodical permit. Home delivery is a challenge for all newspapers, and using the postal service eliminates many headaches. The NNA Foundation has the Max Heath Postal Institute (MHPI), which provides a postal education program and helps newspapers with postal issues.

The institute is posthumously named after Max Heath. Max was instrumental in helping the Hernando Sun be able to deliver newspapers through the mail. He helped us navigate the unique challenges that were presented in Hernando County by mail consolidation, which saw some of the mail processing for the county take place in Tampa.

In addition to the conference, we also took time to meet with our congressional delegation, which is made up of US Representative Gus Bilirakis, Senator Rick Scott, and Senator Marco Rubio. We managed to arrange a meeting with Gus Bilirakis and discussed the importance of local newspapers with him and his staff. We met with Rick Scott’s and Marco Rubio’s staff as well.

We had a chance to discuss local issues with our representatives as well as stress the importance of local news. Several legislative issues have been crafted to benefit local media outlets, such as the Community News and Small Business Support Act (H.R. 4756). Rep. Bilirakis is a co-sponsor of this bill, which would provide tax credits to small businesses that advertise with local news organizations. It would also provide a payroll tax credit for the employment of local journalists.

Representative Gus Bilirakis was concerned about local events that he was going to have to cancel due to the impending shutdown. His staff is not allowed to work on anything during a shutdown other than reopening the government. The shutdown did not happen, and therefore, his office was able to be involved in the Veterans Town Hall on Monday. However, because Speaker McCarthy canceled the district work period for representatives so they could work on the budget, Rep. Bilirakis has had to cancel many other meetings and events planned over the next two weeks.

It was an interesting time to be in DC, as the impending shutdown was everyone’s main focus. We overheard many people talking about the shutdown, including drugstore clerks, congressional security guards, hotel concierges, and many of the congressional staff. If you live and work in DC, you would believe that it is the only issue that people are concerned about. It felt like DC was a bubble where their specific concerns were magnified.

The Hernando Sun’s trip to Washington appears to have been fruitful, and next year, the NNA Conference is in Omaha, Nebraska. If we go, maybe we can get Warren Buffett to buy ads in the Hernando Sun.

Rocco Maglio
Rocco Magliohttps://www.roccomaglio.com
Rocco Maglio is a co-founder of the Hernando Sun. He grew up in Brooksville and graduated from Hernando High. He then worked in technology for starting in the early 1990s. He was fascinated by the potential of the Internet even though at the time there were not graphical browsers. He recently earned a Master of Science in Information Technology with a specialization in Cybersecurity.
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