I write this column every week because it seems important that the readers of The Leader hear from the editor and publisher of this newspaper. You should know how we feel about issues specific to our neighborhoods. You should know if one piece of news strikes us as crucial to the future of our community. And as the many mentors I’ve had in this business have always said, a newspaper like ours needs a face the public can scream at when they don’t like what we’ve published.
The other reason I write this weekly column is because I’m supposed to be the champion for the men and women who work at this newspaper. It’s my job to promote our community; it’s also my job to promote The Leader and the work we do as a service to the place where we live.
So in the spirit of reflection, let me offer you a unique perspective into the role of your community newspaper, and we can start right here, with my column.
This year, I have written 49 columns – I took three weeks off to tend to family or to free up space so my buddy at the bottom of the page, Lynn Ashby, could spew some of his left-leaning, Texas humor.
Each of my columns is about 1,050 words, which means I’ve written a total (give or take) of about 51,450 words this year. To put that in perspective, Ray Bradbury’s book, “Farenheit 451,” is 46,000 words long. Basically, I’ve written a novel’s worth of columns this year. The only problem is I don’t think I can sell 10 million copies of my column, which is how many copies Bradbury has sold of his novel.
I’ve written four columns this year on airplanes, eight of them in hotel rooms, three of them at my kitchen table, one in a corner of my parents’ home in Alabama (which is where I’m sitting right now) and 33 of them at my office on East T.C. Jester Boulevard.
But that’s not even close to the most interesting thing The Leader has accomplished this year.
In every edition of The Leader, we publish about 13,365 words (some editions are larger than others). If the word “weekly” didn’t give it away, we publish The Leader once every week of the year (including the six weeks our office was closed after Hurricane Harvey). So 52 weeks, multiplied by 13,365, means we published 694,980 words this year, and every single word in our newspaper had something to do with our community.
Let me offer some perspective on that quantity of content. The King James Bible is made up of 783,000 words. Leo Tolstoy’s novel, “War and Peace,” has 587,000 words. What I once thought was a monstrous book, “Grapes of Wrath” has 169,000 words.
That’s fascinating, isn’t it? Each year – depending on the size of our newspaper – we basically publish a bible on this area of Houston. By my best count, we had 16 different people write for us in 2017, and we wrote somewhere around 1,755 stories, which means the average story in our newspaper is about 400 words.
By my best guess, we printed 1,475 pictures in the paper this year, and that doesn’t include the pictures in our local advertisements. We published an extra 400 pictures on our website that never made print, and my best guess is we added another 400 to social media outlets.
Add those together and we published somewhere around 2,275 pictures this year. And when you look at it like that, it means The Leader’s feed averaged sending out 6.2 pictures every day for 365 straight days.
I mentioned advertisements earlier. The best calculation I can make is that we averaged 162 advertisers in our newspaper every week. That includes the big advertisers like our hospitals and some of our Realtors, to the smallest customers who find value marketing in our newspaper, including those garage sale ads for $20.
Put those numbers together, and it means we published somewhere around 8,400 local ads this year.
Getting back to our editorial content, the specifics of the numbers are interesting, too.
Each week, we publish a police report from the prior week, just so you know what kinds of crimes are happening close to your home. Each week, we publish somewhere close to 40 crimes, which means that in 2017, we’ve told you about 2,080 different crimes on our streets, which is kind of frightening when you think about it.
In our calendar of events, we average somewhere close to nine events we publicize (for free) each week. That means we’ve helped local organizations promote around 470 different events this year.
Depending on how outgoing our churches feel on a given week, we publish somewhere around four events from our chapels each week – or about 208 events this year.
Around this time of year, I think it’s a good idea for us all to spend a few moments reflecting on the things we’ve accomplished in the past 12 months. As we stretch into 2018, we’ll all set goals for new endeavors and try to correct some of the things we didn’t complete in the year prior.
When I reflect on what the people in our office have accomplished in 2017, it’s an interesting exercise to measure the role we’ve had in keeping our community informed and, at times, entertained.
As I spend some much-needed time with my family over the next week, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and a fruitful New Year. And we’ll be right back here in 2018 to publish yet another bible on our incredible community.