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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pure Envy: Local Paper Ignores Local Online Authors

Warning: the following blog post contains envious, self-serving snarkification. Parental discretion is advised.

Our proud local paper, the family-owned Madison Daily Leader, does respectable work covering Lake County's arts and culture scene. Among its coverage of such events as the one-act plays and the Jane Austen society, the Leader gives regular coverage to what appear to be a statistically disproportionate number of published authors. Jon Lauck received well-deserved coverage for his published analysis on the 2004 Daschle–Thune Senate race. Donald James Parker has received coverage for his Christian fiction. Former DSU prof Rev. Kenneth Thurow was just in last week's paper for his new book, A Place at the Table: Scripture, Sexuality, and Life in the Church. There have been a couple other such stories in the print edition (I can't find them in the online archives) about local authors successfully publishing their works.

Unfortunately, "successfully publishing" is not quite the mark of distinction it might once have been. With the notable exception of Mr. Lauck, every local author recently featured in the Madison Daily Leader is self-published. Mr. Parker publishes and distributes his own books under his own banner, "Sword of Spirit Publishing." Rev. Thurow published his own book through iUniverse, an online company where anyone with $599 can turn any collection of pages into a "published book." To turn such self-financed publishing efforts into news stories seems more like free advertising than recognition of a cultural achievement.

The editorial staff at the Madison Daily Leader could argue that just writing a book is a newsworthy achievement. Having the gumption to print up copies and subject your work to public scrutiny and criticism is all the more admirable.

Why, then, has the Madison Daily Leader not turned its attention to a whole other population of self-published authors, the bloggers of Lake County? If publishing one's own work is newsworthy, then local online authors John Nelson, Matt Hendrickson, and Matt Paulson certainly deserve front-page coverage for their efforts. I would hazard a guess that Mr. Paulson is making more money on his self-published online essays than any of the self-published paper authors the Leader has covered. (Update: Ah! The Leader did venture online to give Mr. Paulson some attention when he launched his AmericanConsumerNews.com!)

And then there's the Madville Times. I'm now in my fourth year (and 2,120th post) of writing about local and state news (with, yes, an increasing dose of national politics). My writings here have been picked up by KELOLand.com, one of the biggest (albeit now bankrupt) media outfits in South Dakota. My StatCounter numbers tell me this site received 10,921 unique visitors. 4,322 of those visitors were entertained or aggravated enough to come back for more.

Four thousand readers. In one month. Still small potatoes compared to South Dakota's big-dog bloggers, but tell me 4,000 people picked up one of DJP's books last month. I'm as self-published as any author Jon Hunter has featured on his pages, and I generate more conversation, more hits, and more attention for Madison. I also do it without paying for paper.

So why on earth would our proud local media have not covered this new, vibrant field of self-publication? Could it be that I'm not the only one suffering a little envy here?

As I said, I seek to take nothing away from my neighbors who have the intelligence and courage to write and publish. But what's good for all the paper geese is good for us e-ganders. Mr. Hunter, it's time for some blog coverage!

There, that's out of my system. Back to the news!

p.s. Speaker at DSU's upcoming spring convocation: Dan Schoepf, DSU graduate, successful consultant, and author of two books—Sales: America's Other National Pastime, and How to Build a DYNAMITE Sales Team... both self-published.


  1. Your man, Hunter, has never put forth an opinion in all the years he has been editor. His opinion editorials are fluffy, no teeth, no commitment. He probably can't afford to lose subscribers, where you aren't relying on an income from your blog, so you have little to lose, other than differing opinions.

  2. CAH:

    We bloggers are the ultimate "vanity press." Except we have more readers.

    Thanks for the props.

    I also remember someone telling me last summer on the shores of beautiful Lake Herman that we should be more worried about impact than pageviews as local bloggers. I think you are a great example of impact over book sales.

    Just keep bloggin' baby! You've got something to say and worth hearing. Now, if we could all just figure out a way to make a little more money at this!

    Todd Epp
    SD Watch http://www.southdakotawatch.net

  3. Make money? Todd, we socialists are allergic to filthy lucre. ;-)

    Anon, I wouldn't go that far. Our man Jon has proferred some noteworthy opinions (see his thoughts on a socialism and bike lanes), for which I have given him proper credit.

  4. Oh, and even if I were relying on income from the blog (the tip jar is open!), I'd still have opinions, and you'd still hear about them.

  5. Just so I'm clear, here -- the bloggers have issued just as many press-releases about their publishing as the self-publishers have, correct?

    Because without one -- or at least a few phone calls -- it ain't gonna happen.

    I heard the complaint about lack of media coverage a lot when I was started working for a local arts organization -- many artists were of the opinion that the radios, tv stations and papers should be knocking on the gallery door on a weekly basis. At that time, the media wasn't even the postcard-invite list.

  6. OtherM, you clever devil! I'll get on that!


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