Media for the Greater Good
The New York Times has been given credit for using the following motto: “All the news that is fit to print.” That definitive statement served as a source of pride for that publication in its masthead since the 1800s.
Today, the quotation has come into question as mainstream media often appears to have changed its mission, and now reports and emphasizes only the sensationalist or ‘bad’ news, both in print and over the airwaves. Just what is fit to print these days? A lot of heated rhetoric surrounds this question.
I know how to find the answer to this question. Take a few minutes out of your day and sit down with longtime publisher, Jen MacMillen, and have a chat. She may have to clear out a space for you to sit in her busy office, and you may have to wait for her to finish her daily multi-tasking duties, but you will come away convinced that there is good news out there. Trust me on this. If there is local news out there with a positive slant that emphasizes the good in people and communities, Jen will find it and bring it right to your doorstep – at no cost!
This talented and dedicated lady began her ‘good-news-only’ publishing businesses when she started an employee newsletter for Gannett Outdoor billboard advertising company back in 1988. Today, the Quechee resident publishes the Lebanon Times, the Quechee Times, the Norwich Times, and the ironically named Northeast Journal of St. Petersburg, Florida. The New England papers are published quarterly and are mailed directly to every resident in the communities they serve at no cost whatsoever to the readers. Local businesses and civic and non-profit organizations fund the publications through paid advertising space and content sponsorships.
As a longtime journalist/photographer, I was attracted to her work like a moth to a bright light. I quickly offered my editorial services, which she happily accepted! That was in 2013 right after the first issue of the Lebanon Times published. From then on, I have joined the crusade to emphasize the good-news-only concept. For me, being engaged with people in the community and reporting on the good things that happen here is the most rewarding contribution of my career.
Although it’s been an idea percolating for about 12 years, Jen is now ready to expand her journalistic mission and extend the concept to other communities across the country… to literally spread good news! As her dream comes true, everyone can share her passion and love of all things positive. Don’t take my word for it. Let me allow Jen to explain the details herself. (After all, she is the publisher!)
DN: What prompted the change of your business from Village Green Publishing to Greater Good Media? Have you revised your mission statement?
JM: I actually love the name Village Green Publishing. It evokes a wonderful image of a central community gathering place where citizens can engage in typical community-building activities. New Englanders are familiar with this image and the positive feelings associated with it. However, I’m ready to expand and need a name and image that is more universal and captures what my true mission is.
Now that my daughters are essentially on their own (one in college and one recently graduated from college), I am ready to put into motion the idea I’ve had to help others spread good news in their own communities. One day while driving, the name Greater Good Media popped into my mind. That was it! I knew it was exactly the right fit for my bigger vision in that it perfectly describes what my mission is and is broad enough to include all forms of media. Don’t get me wrong, I love print and believe strongly that everyone still values a beautifully crafted, tangible piece. It’s like getting a present in the mail versus an online gift card. As a business owner, I do know that I must keep pace with the times, and see the tremendous value of other, more immediate forms of media as an opportunity to spread farther and faster the good news themes that abound in my printed community journals.
DN: Going forward, what is a blue-sky scenario for your publications?
JM: I keep going back and forth between wanting to launch papers myself in communities I believe will receive them best, to serving as a consultant of sorts to others who want to ‘be the bearer of good news’ in their community. I love both ideas for different reasons. I like the idea of Greater Good Media acting as a central headquarters from which the model I’ve created can be used efficiently elsewhere. At the same time, I believe whole-heartedly that the way we will be able to make real, lasting, positive change around the world – that must happen in short order for a variety of reasons – is to start at the community level. With that said, helping others establish their own good-news-only media, as they see fit, appeals to my core beliefs. Either way, I am excited to play a small role in creating a ripple effect of positive change further afield.
DN: As you look back on the early days of getting these publications to become a reality, what kind of feedback have you received from the communities involved?
JM: The fact that my papers are still alive and kicking tells me that readers and businesses see the value in reading about the positive, everyday stuff that traditional ‘news’ outlets don’t always focus on. If all we read about is what’s bad in our community, it’s hard to shake that feeling. If, on the other hand, we get a shot of good news or receive public recognition for doing good deeds, we are more likely to take pride and ownership in our community and want to participate. New Englanders aren’t known for being effusive, but I’ve never received anything but positive feedback. My greatest reward happened when an elder woman from Lebanon called to thank me personally for publishing the Lebanon Times. She said she was mostly homebound and that this paper helped her feel connected to the community. My job is done! That one phone call made all of the incredibly hard work it takes to produce these papers absolutely worth it!
DN: As you face the future and look to expand your coverage areas, what do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?
JM: Myself! As is the case with many small business owners, I get so caught up in the day-to-day details of producing the papers – while making sure the mission remains the guiding force – I don’t find the time to work on my dream. Because I am not trying to be a ‘newspaper,’ I can easily fit into any community without stepping on anyone’s toes. I’m all about collaboration and the principle that there is room for everyone. So, if I can get out of my own way, I’ll make it work and have a blast.
DN: Is there indeed ‘good’ news out there is these stressful times?
JM: Thankfully, yes! While I have strong opinions about how derisive and divisive things are in today’s world, if we really zoom in on the least-common denominator – that place that makes us all human – we all want the same things… love, acceptance, and our basic survival needs met. When we operate with that as a guiding principle and an ‘abundance’ mentality, then it’s easy to see the good in everything and everyone!