People frequently ask me, “What is the ‘secret’ of your success?”
While I could never boil down to one single reason, I have made no secret of the fact that teamwork is the biggest reason this little engine continues to defy the odds, chugging uphill, every single month.
Our readers provide the majority of our content. That’s the key.
We have an amazing team here at The Valley Patriot. Our family of dedicated volunteers performs dozens of different functions within any given month.
Running a newspaper is a very complicated task.
It involves writing, editing, researching stories, color correcting photos, balancing bank statements, covering local events, interviewing local officials, mailing invoices, answering phones and emails, and social media requests, designing, proof reading and eventually delivering the print copy of the paper.
Every single day someone steps forward to say, “How can I help?”
That’s what this newspaper is all about. It’s about reaching out to the community and asking, “How can I help?”
Our readers are the proof.
Let me tell you a really great story that never made the pages of this newspaper but is immortalized as legend among our Facebook and social media followers.
Last year I was giving a speech at a Tea Party rally in Lowell on the steps of the police station. A text message flashed across my phone from a police officer in Boston who was attending the Boston Marathon. The text simply said “Bomb, more coming, be ready.”
By the time I finished my speech (three minutes later) another text came in from my twitter newsfeed. “Bomb Explodes at Boston Marathon.”
My instinct was to rush to the office, but I hadn’t eaten all day. Besides, this story was so big that there probably wasn’t much I could find out in the first hour as law enforcement was still responding to the scene.
Before we even sat down at a local restaurant, a flurry of texts came flooding in from friends, readers, local police officers on their way to the finish line and even a 911 dispatcher who worked in the Boston Area.
While my friends were eating and watching replays on the restaurant TV, I was posting information coming directly from emergency responders, and sharing it on The Valley Patriot’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
By the time I made it back to the office I had an open line of communication with emergency personnel of every stripe, including doctors, emergency room nurses, EMT’s, hospital administrators, and security guards at the hospitals.
Because of our incredible network and a dedicated team of volunteers who came in that night, we were able to funnel the correct information, post it as breaking news, live as it happened, and far ahead of the Boston TV stations.
“It’s terrorism Tom” one text read from an emergency room nurse.
“We are pulling out shrapnel from the victims.”
I froze. I was stunned. I knew this woman.
The woman texting me was not just a nurse at a Boston area hospital but a former member of the armed services who saw action in Afghanistan. If anyone could make a statement like that and know what they were talking about, it was her.
When we contacted our EMT friends who had transported some of the victims, they confirmed.
As I started to post the information online detailing that we had first-hand confirmation of a terrorist attack, one thought rang in my head over and over.
“The Valley Patriot network ROCKS!”
When I finally posted the information it was met with a barrage of doubters and naysayers accusing me of trying to sensationalize the story as a cheap stunt to get publicity for our newspaper.
One malcontent said I “had to be making it up” because he was watching the news on TV and nobody was calling it terrorism. I was scum. I was a bottom feeder. I was taking advantage of the bombing victims and their suffering. I was hurting the families. My sources were bogus. A few people even posted on their own Facebook pages calling the Valley Patriot a “rag.” One genius actually called for a boycott of our advertisers less than an hour after my initial post.
All the critics faded into the woodwork, however, when TV news stations started to slowly come out with “rumors” of shrapnel being removed from victims at the hospital, eventually confirming our sources’ reports.
THE NETWORK REDUX
Days later, when law enforcement shut down all of Boston to hunt down the Muslim terrorist, our network of readers and supporters sprang into action again.
At least two dozen people connected to the search were updating us in real time, minute by minute. And we were passing that information to you online.
When we got word from a source that the terrorist had been captured, we posted it right away.
Again I was attacked for “making things up” and “pretending to know what’s really going on.”
That is, until the Boston TV news eventually confirmed what we were reporting to our readers … again.
Less than a week later we got a call from the taxi driver who unknowingly took the two Muslim terrorists on their dry run of the Marathon route the night before the bombing.
His name oddly enough, is Jim Duggan. He is no relation.
Jim found out about us from a former advertiser who followed us on Facebook during the bombing. She knew Jim, and she knew me, so she put us together.
We did an exclusive interview with Jim, checked him out, checked out his story, and then posted our third consecutive, online exclusive story on the Boston Marathon.
Fox 25 picked up that story and gave the Valley Patriot credit, but CNN reported the story and gave credit to no one.
But I didn’t care. Our readers and our advertisers knew it was our story. They followed along from the beginning.
I wanted to share this story with my print readers in the special edition because, a) if you don’t follow us on line you are really missing out, and b) I wanted to give you an idea just how impossible it would be for me to name and thank everyone involved in what we do here every day.
The success of this newspaper over the last ten years is a great testament to you; those of you who read and advertise with us every month, those of you who feed us critical documents or information, (usually at the risk of losing your jobs), and those of you who drop what you are doing to pitch in and help at the exact time you are needed the most.
When North Andover High School Volleyball Captain Erin Cox finally appeared in Lawrence District Court (with a hand written confession), just weeks after famed attorney Wendy Murphy went on national TV stating Cox was never charged with underage drinking … you guys, our readers, spotted her the second she walked in the courthouse doors, and once again, the text messages came pouring in.
Erin Cox wasn’t given a free pass by Boxford Police the night she was drinking at an underage party, as was reported. She had simply changed the date of her court appearance so it would look that way.
What Erin Cox and Wendy Murphy weren’t counting on was you. YOU called out the phony Erin Cox story with your text messages, emails and phone calls. I was only the vehicle you chose to get the word out. Thank you for that.
This month our newspaper celebrates ten years in the publishing business. We also celebrate how lucky we are to have the efforts and the backing of so many people who have made this milestone possible. Our success is your success.
Now just imagine what we can accomplish in the next ten years as our network continues to grow.
Thank you. All of you. No matter how big or small your contribution, our celebration this month is really about you!