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  • Writer's pictureKeith Dawn

Dedicated to local news and community

courtesy photo

I became publisher at The Press of Atlantic City in the early 2000s, when it was still a daily newspaper and had a huge emphasis on community and local news in the Atlantic County area. Today, The Press and many other newspapers have less focus on local news and have tried to save their way to prosperity by cutting expenses.

Early in my career as publisher, we considered purchasing The Hammonton Gazette. Back in the era of creating synergies and merging roles, we thought we’d have a nice extension for The Press. After further examination, we concluded that we could not do justice to The Hammonton Gazette or the community itself. We couldn’t manage The Gazette from another part of Atlantic County. We knew we had to be a part of the community. We knew we’d have to attend all events in town, to work and live in Hammonton to truly make a difference and to forge a bond with Hammontonians.

When I came to The Hammonton Gazette as interim publisher six months ago I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our first week’s paper was almost not published. If it weren’t for the loyalty and dedication of our small staff, I’m sure Hammonton would not have had a paper that last week of June. With only two-thirds of the staff, we were able to thrive. This small group of journalists and graphic designers wear many hats and did what had to be done to get you YOUR local newspaper. That loyalty, dedication and wearing of many hats continues today. And I am very proud to have been a part of this team.

Fewer and fewer small towns have the privilege or enjoy the benefits of an independent voice and great local newspaper.

Most news organizations have seen a decline in audience and ad revenue. It’s not just newspapers: network TV, cable and radio have all suffered since the onslaught of the internet. Information is literally in the palm of our hands.

More than 2000 newspapers in the U.S. have closed in the last 20 years. The internet was not the only factor. I believe a lot of it was caused by, what I call, “industrialized suicide.” The demise is attributed to outside sources like the internet, but more harmful has been companies buying up newspapers, dwindling their recourses and leaving nothing to be desired by readers or advertisers.

However, newspapers aren’t dead. In fact, community newspapers have a strong future, particularly here in Hammonton. You see, we’re in a unique position. We were purchased by Louie Mullen of Blackbird Publishing in October 2022. His entire mission centers on building strong newspapers in small towns to keep an independent voice that focuses on local content—content you can’t get anywhere else. Content that’s relevant and meaningful to the community. Content that is fair, accurate and balanced. This is a solid strategy for any newspaper company, but it takes resources and commitment to make it happen. It also takes a community to support the local paper.

Imagine Hammonton without The Hammonton Gazette. This town lost The Hammonton News a few years ago after Gannett (corporate ownership) tried to consolidate and print news about Camden and forced it down our throats. You see how that turned out.

At The Hammonton Gazette, we’re focused on local. This includes school events, local government decisions, community initiatives and small business stories. We’ll continue our community connection by fostering a sense of belonging and unity by highlighting local achievements, showcasing resident stories and promoting local events. All of this helps build a stronger community bond and encourages civic engagement.

While my time as publisher is over at The Hammonton Gazette, my heart remains. I’ll still dine, shop and visit friends from this beautiful town. I hope I was able to make a difference during my short stint as publisher.

I walk away knowing that there’s great leadership at the helm of The Gazette. New Publisher Craig Richards is a media veteran. He has experience in radio, newspapers, magazines, digital and video production. I’m confident in the future multimedia plans for this company. But I’m extremely confident in the people who are in place to make it happen.

I ask that you help support our mission of making this a great media company with an independent local voice.

Keith Dawn is the Interim Publisher for The Hammonton Gazette. Dawn’s last day is Dec. 29.


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