As I take stock of the year 2018, I want to thank everyone who has made it possible to publish our five newspapers, five websites, our new monthly magazine called Westchester Wellness, and various other special sections and projects.
Of course, I’m appreciative of all our advertisers who fund this business. Without the advertising, this business wouldn’t exist. Our clients not only benefit from a powerful way to advertise their businesses (as no other medium reaches into the community better than us), but they also recognize that by choosing to advertise in our papers and websites, they are supporting the community, which benefits from having a local paper.
Our advertisers are also helping many local charities and non-profit organizations, who are supported by our papers. For example, each week we donate a free ad to the Putnam Humane Society. We couldn’t donate this space to help those homeless dogs and cats without our advertisers, who keep us in business. Our advertisers are among the most philanthropic members of the community, and I urge our readers to support their businesses.
But ultimately the advertising in our newspapers wouldn’t work for our clients without a dedicated staff that creates informative, compelling, fun and creative content for our readers.
I have 10 full-time employees, six part-time employees and dozens of freelance writers, photographers and columnists. Running a small business isn’t easy. I launched Halston Media in 2010 without any sort of business background. I simply had a love for local journalism. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but as any small business owner will tell you, without mistakes, you aren’t learning and you aren’t growing.
I tend to hire extremely talented people with strong personalities and strong opinions. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have an open-door policy, where each of my employees is encouraged to disagree with me and speak out if they have better ways of doing things. Perhaps this is unique, or perhaps other small businesses are run similarly?
However, one thing I can say for certain that is unique about Halston Media is that each employee truly cares deeply about this business. Our account executives care deeply about our clients. They aren’t just “salespeople.” They truly are marketing consultants who design campaigns to ensure our clients’ success. Our account executives truly care about the community.
Meanwhile, our production/design staff take immense pride in making the newspapers look beautiful each week. They work on the editorial layout and the ads. They are the ones that create the beautiful photo montages that are often displayed in the center of the paper. They work closely with our salespeople to design effective ads, and they work closely with our editors to lay out the content. Across our five newspapers, they create from scratch about 150 pages every week. It’s not an easy task, and they do a super job.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a newspaper without our reporters/editors, who care deeply about their sources, their readers, and the craft of journalism. Unfortunately, with all the talk about “fake news” in the national media and the vitriol leveled against journalists (whether from the left against the right or from the right against the left), I want our readers and sources to understand that local journalism is a whole different ballgame. To be candid, the economics of local journalism is very different than the national outlets. Our editorial staff isn’t working for Halston Media to get rich. Rather, these are people who truly love what they do. They work 50, 60, 70 and even 80 hours per week at times to serve the community. Each one of us approaches life with a world view, but our journalists truly attempt to be objective with every story. And I think they do a great job!
I also employ a part-time delivery person, who takes immense pride in his work to ensure that the papers are distributed each week to all the area post offices. Managing over 30,000 newspaper copies weekly isn’t easy; it takes a great amount of organization and someone who truly cares about the distribution.
I’m also lucky to have my wife, Lauren, as the bookkeeper for this business. She works each week to make sure our employees, freelancers and vendors are paid, the bills go out, the money is collected and the books are balanced. She works closely with our salespeople and our clients to ensure every detail is correct. And, to be quite frank, Lauren has to put up with me. As any small business owner will attest, we think about our businesses 24/7. So, Lauren can’t escape work. Whether we’re at dinner or out of town, we’re still talking about work. So, I thank her for tolerating and loving me. It can’t be easy!
I wish all of our readers, advertisers, employees and vendors, including the many U.S. Postal Service workers who deliver our papers, a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.
Brett Freeman is the publisher of Halston Media (Mahopac News, The Somers Record, Yorktown News, North Salem News and The Katonah-Lewisboro Times).