by Jason Wert, Publisher/Editor
June 1 marks the six month anniversary of Ozarks Independent.
Man, does time fly by.
I wanted to take a moment to praise God and thank everyone who has helped Ozarks Independent grow to where we are today. We’re not even at the official end of the month as I type this but we’ve already jumped 2,500 monthly readers over last month, marking the 6th straight month of reader growth.
When we started with no advertising budget, knowing we had to depend on word-of-mouth and that it’s extremely difficult to get the word out about you solely through that method, we were a little nervous. The way those of you who have helped spread the word about OI have just humbled us.
When I picture that the number of readers who have come along with us over these six months could fill over 85% of Hammons Field or the former JQH Arena, it just blows me away. I really wish I could shake each of your hands and personally say thank you. When I felt God tell me to step out in faith and go all-in with OI, I had no idea it would take off this fast.
I also really appreciate the feedback so many of you have given regarding our content, especially those that are enjoying our focus on only local events. Our goal was to provide the best coverage of local events that we can provide, especially on events that may not get a lot of other media attention.
I also want to thank everyone who has provided us with information, or allowed us to review their plays or concerts, or agreed to do an interview. Your willingness to work with us has made our start-up a lot easier on the content side of things.
Now, as we head into the next six months, there are a few ways you can contribute or help OI. I’ve been told it’s probably not a good idea to share these with you, but transparency with things like government is a big deal to us, so if we expect it then we need to live it.
First, we’re always looking for local journalists or student journalists that would like to submit stories. This is a great opportunity if you want to promote an event with a charity organization you love, or a public event that you’re involved in, or even just a chance to add some experience on your resume. We won’t print everything that comes our way, but we certainly will consider any article that is sent to us. (We also do have an editorial/letter to the editor section!)
We at OI really have a passion for student journalists and giving them opportunities to learn the craft. I wrote articles for the News-Chronicle in my hometown while I was in high school and we want to be an outlet for student journalists (both high school and college) to gain some experience. If you know a student journalist who might be interested in working with OI, or you’re a student journalist yourself, send us a message and let’s see if we can work out a way for you to be a part of OI.
Secondly, please keep spreading the word about OI. As we’ve tried to get advertisers to support our mission of providing only local news to the Ozarks, the number one thing we get told is “we didn’t know you guys were here!” That’s one of the downsides of not having a big advertising budget…it takes a while for people to know you exist. So the more businesses that know there’s an alternative local news outlet that’s locally-owned and locally-focused, the better our chances of gaining the support we need to keep OI not only alive but growing into ways that we can enhance our support for the community.
If you frequent a business and know the owner or manager, mention to them how much you like OI. Again, word of mouth is powerful, and if a regular customer tells a business owner about something, it will likely stick in their mind.
And if you ARE a business owner who would like to support the mission of OI, we’d love to talk to you. Just email us or call our office at 417-459-4451 and we’ll set up a time to show you more about who we are, what we want to accomplish and ways that you can not only advertise your business but help provide our area with locally-focused news.
Third and finally, if you’re in the Greene County area outside of Springfield, contact your local officials and your local school districts and let them know that OI is here. When we launched, we focused on mostly Springfield and the immediate surrounding area in Greene County, along with the Greene County Commission. Why? Well, as the old cliche goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. We wanted to make sure to establish ourselves as providing quality coverage of Springfield, Nixa, Ozark, Branson, and the Greene County Commission, before we really poured it on with the rest of Greene County.
Now, we want to bring you the stories about what’s happening in Ash Grove, Willard, Battlefield, Fair Grove, Rogersville, Strafford, Republic, and Walnut Grove. We want to be able to highlight the students in those schools who are doing amazing things. We want to be able to promote the events happening in those towns that bring their local flavor to our community. Send your events to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special shout-out to Tom Ladd for helping us really get things going in the early stages. He’s not just the voice of the Lady Bears, folks. He’s a really incredible person and a real asset to our community.
A special thank you as well to Springfield public information head Cora Scott and Greene County Commission PIO Donna Barton for their work helping OI make contacts with in the city and county governments that were necessary for our reporting.
Again, thank you to each one of you who has helped us reach where we are today. We’re here to serve you and thank you for the opportunity to continue our mission.