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HAGEN: Digital, the investment to make it all worthwhile

I’m here because I want to be here, and well, because we continue making fantastic progress with digital first journalism to sustain our long-term outlook.

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Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen.
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Mitchell was supposed to be a stop. A stepping stone.

The runway to my sports writing career. That was the plan 14-plus years ago.

I told the backstory to a sports reporter applicant during his interview the other day, explaining that my first job out of college was here. I said how I was hired in late July 2008, planned to stay here three or so years and then move south to cover minor league baseball.

That reminds me, when I told my late grandfather that I landed a job in Mitchell, he replied, “South Dakota, that’s a good tax state.” I didn’t know any better.

I’m proud to still be in Mitchell, and I try to tell anyone considering a job here exactly that. (And I usually drop in the same line my grandpa told me about our friendly taxes.) I’m here because I want to be here, and well, because we continue making fantastic progress with digital first journalism to sustain our long-term outlook.

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How many 36-year-olds do you know who’ve worked at the same business for nearly 15 years?

Actually, let me rephrase: It’s a unique feat to work at a newspaper, and to do so for any duration of time is more impressive the longer you last.

When you interview and hire new journalists, that becomes more and more obvious. This job isn’t for everyone. And newspapers around the country are closing. What keeps me going, though, is our success and productivity each day with great digital journalism.

Not everyone likes to hear it. Some readers especially want us to go back to six days a week of print. It’s been more than two years since making our change, and we’re not looking back. Each day, we’re talking about and finding new ways to get news online faster and more creatively.

Look, I started in newspapers knowing my sports reporting passion would bleed as ink onto each day’s edition for our readers to consume. Now, as editor, thinking beyond just sports, the desire to be the source for local news is as high as ever. While we still value our print subscribers and understand the love for newsprint — hey, I feel the same way — our future is digital. That's just the cold, hard fact.

The way to deliver news fastest in today’s world undoubtedly is online, which is why our investment into digital journalism has never been higher.

Want proof? Well, at the end of August, we offered an online deal of $2 for six months of digital access to our website. For about 10 days, we basically gave our subscriptions away to show those who signed up exactly how productive and valuable we are.

Our staff includes a photographer who travels all over the region to capture fantastic high school sporting events (and so much more) to assemble wonderful online photo galleries , three news reporters who are ingrained into the community with rigorous reporting, and three sports staffers — and looking to hire one more — who cover South Dakota better than anyone. (Sorry, I’m obviously biased but they truly are fantastic and work so hard.) Our company also has three other journalists who live in South Dakota who have niche content specialties like politics and statewide issues.

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We have web-exclusive content like our weekly Gridiron Spotlight prep football page that’s a comprehensive look at the most interesting storylines across the state. We’re regularly live-streaming high school sporting events, and much of our content that runs in our print edition hits our website a day earlier. Again, that’s because it’s a faster delivery method and is a fantastic benefit for our online readers to keep regular tabs on our website. When news happens, we report it right away.

Just a month ago, I met with the public for a day at the Dakotafest farm show in Mitchell. I showed a couple of our readers that it takes one tap for our app to show our E-edition. Now, since the beginning of the year, we’ve invested hours and hours building and planning a new experience in addition to our E-edition.

I’m proud to share that we're about to release what we’re calling the “Web Edition” as an alternate method for the day’s curated news. It will be offered in the coming weeks and was put together through meetings and interviews with members of the public -- our readers giving us their direct, immediate feedback. You’ll soon see an option when you click on the big yellow button for a daily “Web Edition,” which offers an easily scannable view of all the stories that made the day's paper, in their same order of appearance.

The new experience allows you, as the reader, to quickly scan the day's headlines, choose which stories you're interested in and read full articles without jumping to another page and losing your place. We hope this new experience will offer everything you love about the print edition while adding some new benefits that are only possible in a digital format. Give it a try and send us your feedback. We’re pretty proud of it.

All of this is our continued investment into journalism — with a digital-first mindset. And it means we are going to last, our newspaper is going to thrive, because we’re not solely focused on a print edition. More than half of our readers get their news online in some fashion, and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in digital subscriptions in the past year. More people are reading us now than ever. Thank you all for the support.

All of these perks and accomplishments typically come up when I’m discussing what we offer, not only for our readers but for a reporter who’s interested in a job in Mitchell, South Dakota. Our newspaper is strong and our future outlook is fantastic, so much because we’re focused on digital reporting.

What a stepping stone this job turned out to be.

Related Topics: COMMENTARYMITCHELL
Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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