On Friday, I wrote:
Even if local newspapers won't be what I'd like them to be, there isn't much I can do about it, and while I remain intrigued by the possibilities of blogs and blogging, my profession is beer, not journalism. Mind you, there is no desire here to forsake the editorial soapbox with regard to local politics and civic affairs; rather, there's a desire to place these into an overall context, and one way to do that is to continue writing and trusting my own instincts when it comes to what might be interesting for readers.
As you might imagine, I’m speaking of the Tribune as the journalistic entity in question.
While the case can be made, and I agree with it, that the newspaper is far better than it was before the current management team came aboard, the fact that it spent the month of December steadfastly refusing to touch the 1SI/ROCK story that we chased here for more than a month, choosing instead to do things like devote today’s front page to the story of how a family of west end hillbillies are quartering a horse in their undersized backyard, tells you much of what you need to know about the paper’s ongoing failure – not a failure to improve overall, and not a failure to generate worthy content, but a failure to institute a substantive editorial policy, something that I vaguely recall the publisher vowing would occur before the end of 2006.
Correct me if I’m wrong.
Of course, in New Albanian terms, being just a year late is tantamount to finishing far ahead of schedule. That’s how we tell time in the land that its citizens seem to have forgotten.
Not unexpectedly, my only New Year’s “resolution” that has a chance of success in 2008 is to become less reticent about telling the world what I really think.
Knowing that it stands to mightily annoy the trogs is reward enough for persevering, don't you think?
Having weathered the lengthy period required to have 1SI publicly concede my point about slippery slopes (acidly: did I remember to thank the Tribune for its help in achieving this?), I remain a board member of Develop New Albany, a non-profit organization that exists to assist in the rehabilitation of downtown New Albany in the context of precepts espoused by the national Main Street group.
I write the newsletter, and my committee assignment is Economic Restructuring. At one lunch meeting roughly six months ago, a discussion was held pertaining to the ways that Develop New Albany might help small business people downtown succeed. The give and take was valuable, and many fine ideas were advanced by the participants, and yet it occurred to me at some point that much of what we were saying was largely irrelevant, in the sense that if an entrepreneur needs to be educated about certain realities only after he or she has invested in a small business, it’s probably too late to be of any real help. Rather, it becomes sink-or-swim time.
I don’t mean for this to sound harsh, and permit me to stress that my thoughts are not being aimed in any specific direction or toward any individual, but after a while it just becomes surreal to fathom that retail establishments (for instance) must be counseled to do things like hold to consistent opening hours, to not try to be everything to everyone, and to know something about the potential market for their products.
It seems axiomatic to me that if you want to run a successful coffee shop (for instance), the absolute founding principle must be superior knowledge of coffee and the desire that your coffee is the best it can possibly be, as well as the recognition that if your doors are locked, customers cannot spend their money with you, and yet time and again we see that folks willing to stake it all on a dream don't even have that much of the fundamental mission statement in line.
So, I’ve spent chunks of time for more than a year earnestly attempting to make examples like this clear, and seeking to pass along some of what I’ve learned from 15 years of running my own business. More often than not, it is though I’m speaking a foreign language. Why seek advice if you have no intention of profiting from it? Forget me for a moment: Isn't it the case that merely observing a successful business and taking notes might lead to worthwhile insights, and to reforms that might push the endeavor over the top?
It is not my preference to shrug and permit marketplace Darwinism to run its inevitable course without at least trying to be of service … but I’m almost forced to do so in the absence of comprehension, so allow me to conclude by saying this: I believe that the coming year will be pivotal in terms of small business in downtown New Albany, and that it also might well be the perfect chance for savvy opportunists (don't worry; they're out there), to make the necessary market corrections. There’ll be steps backward, but there’ll also be steps forward.
Stay alert. Things may soon be getting quite interesting.