A letter was sent out to Mexico Ledger subscribers earlier this month to inform them changes were coming to the paper's production schedule. Regional Editor Allen Fenewald, Reporter Charles Dunlap and Missouri State Editor Jim Van Nostrand addressed community concerns Wednesday evening at Brick City Buffet and Grill.
Starting next week, the Ledger will go to a twice-weekly publication schedule on Wednesdays and Fridays to move toward a digital-first model of community news. News and sports will be available on The Mexico Ledger website first, and in print afterward. So, for events that happen for example on Friday afternoon, an article will be online that evening, and the story will appear in print on Wednesday.
"We're going to start putting everything online. I think we've been doing that a lot more recently anyway, but everything we do is going to try to find a place online, so you can share it on social media," Fennewald said.
There is a small fee for full digital access to stories posted on The Mexico Ledger website. Otherwise, visitors are limited to three articles per month through the website. Print subscribers already have digital access. The Mexico Ledger also will have an e-edition starting in November, which will allow subscribers to view print editions online.
"My message is give us a chance," Van Nostrand said. "Because we're out here listening to what you have to say — good, bad, indifferent — we're going to take it to heart. Newspapers aren't what they used to be staffing wise and resource wise, but we want to make this the best paper we can in Mexico."
There also will be a push for more digital-only content, such as photo galleries and videos. Additional local lifestyles and business content will also appear in the paper and website.
"The paper is going to be thicker. It's going to be 16 pages, at least to start out with,” Fennewald said. "... Hopefully we'll have a better product when we have more time to work on it."
Lifestyle page content will include a local food column, interviews with visiting music acts and a bigger focus on performing arts events and more.
"I wrote the first recipe story, so hopefully that will spur some more people to [submit recipes]," Fennewald said.
Changes to the opinion page also are coming. Starting next week, Fennewald will once again be in charge of opinion page decisions, which will allow him to ensure writer biographies are included with the editorials and that the community will be better reflected through the page. He also will welcome article-length updates, around 500-800 words, from area organizations which can be placed on the opinion page as a guest column. Letters to the editor are always welcomed, as well.
Feedback from the community included returning Around Town to a more lighthearted informational calendar and column, a focus on more regional sports, not just high school sports, less world news and more news from the Missouri legislature.
The digital-first model may turn off older individuals, because there is no one to help that person bridge the gap between print and digital, one community member commented.
"Do you think there would be an appetite for [educational] seminars or a how-to guide?" Van Nostrand asked about those who are concerned about using the website, or other digital formats of the paper, such as the e-edition.
Ledger staff could do an adult-learning course to help ease the transition, Fennewald said.
"If you think there is any interest for that kind of thing here, I think we could arrange it," Van Nostrand said.
Fennewald also would be more than happy to visit with area organizations when they hold meetings to discuss the transition to the twice-weekly publication schedule, he said.
Dunlap was asked what the community could do to help him since he is the only news reporter for the Ledger. Sports is handled by other reporters.
"Just making sure that items are submitted to me [would help], because sometimes I'll find out about an event after-the-fact," he said. "If you have an event coming up, get something to me at the very least two days in advance."
It doesn't have to be a press release, it could just be a phone call, he added.
"That way I can add it to my calendar to go cover it, or at least call someone so I can do a small write-up about it, even if I can't go to the event. Submit as much as you can because I'm not going to be able to make it to everything. I am just one person."
News items can be submitted on The Mexico Ledger website by visiting mexicoledger.com/submit. Other announcements like births and engagements also can be submitted through the site. Submissions also can be emailed to Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fennewald at email@example.com. The Mexico office number 573-581-1111. Dunlap’s direct line in the Columbia office is 573-815-1809.