Let me start with a confession.
When I looked into working for The Leader, my first inclination was to look down on it. All my previous jobs in journalism had been for daily newspapers, which operated at a fast pace I liked and seemed to carry more cachet both within the profession and among the news-consuming public.
A weekly is a sleepy place to be, I thought, and transitioning to one seemed like a step down.
But like any decent journalist would do, I suspended my preconceived notions and gave The Leader a closer look. I talked to publisher Jonathan McElvy about the paper and the community it serves, I studied the stories that were being told and I researched the area both online and in person.
Jonathan eventually offered me the job as editor, and I took it. A year-and-a-half later, I sure am glad I did.
Leading the small editorial staff at The Leader has been the most rewarding part of my career, which has taken me all over Texas, to the Midwest and now back home to Houston. I’ve been fortunate to win some awards along the way, all while working as a sportswriter, but the work I’ve done since becoming a news reporter, photographer and editor for your weekly local news source has been the most impactful.
That’s largely because The Leader has a unique and special connection with the community we have served for 65 years and counting. That was evident almost immediately after I started engaging with residents of the Heights, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and the other neighborhoods of north and northwest Houston.
In my previous role, covering high school sports for the San Antonio Express-News, I often identified myself as being from the newspaper. The response I often got was, “Which newspaper?” even though the Alamo City has had only one daily paper for more than two decades.
Here, on the other hand, The Leader needs no sort of introduction or explainer. More often than not, when I tell folks I’m with The Leader, their eyes light up and they tell me how much they love our product and that they grew up reading it and maybe they even delivered papers when they were kids.
Those reactions have inspired me to keep the compelling stories flowing and to keep a finger on the pulse of the community as best as I can. They’ve also taught me that my previous prejudices against weekly newspapers were dead wrong.
Love The Leader? Please consider making a donation to support community journalism. Click here to learn about our Voluntary Pay Program
The pace is plenty fast, for starters, and that has been especially true during the last few months. In the midst of a pandemic that has affected the health and livelihood of many of our community members, we have treated our website (theleadernews.com) like a daily news outlet and strived to give you important information and uplifting stories as quickly and as frequently as possible.
We also do our best to refrain from sensationalizing the stories we cover, and we don’t seek out controversial, politicized stories just to stoke fires, sell papers and get more clicks on our website.
We’re a free paper, and it’s also free to access our website and our social media channels. So we try to strike a balance between responsible reporting on relevant issues and giving you the hyperlocal, feel-good community news that only we can deliver.
For example, on our front page this week are localized stories about the recent nationwide protests calling for social justice and Texas’ first high-speed rail project, coupled with features about area high school graduates and an owl – yes, an owl – that is terrorizing some neighborhood residents.
Where else can you find such a mix of news? Not from a major daily, and even those from major dailies understand the importance of community journalism. Here’s what Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan had to say on Twitter earlier this week:
“I note this, the excellence of local, because they’re often treated in journalistic and corporate circles as the kids of journalism, not the first tier. But in their reporting skills, professionalism, reluctance to emote, they are often the adults.”
Speaking of adulting, here’s where we get really serious. While The Leader is free, and we love that about our product, the cost of putting it together every week is not.
We have bills to pay and a staff to support. And like just about every news outlet across the country, the shift toward digital advertising and the pandemic – which has caused many of the businesses that advertise in newspapers to tighten their belts – has impacted us economically.
So we’re asking those of you who support The Leader to help support us financially. In this week’s edition you’ll find an insert about our Voluntary Pay Program, in which we request donations to help fund the work we do. Any amount, whether it’s $25 or $2,500, will be much appreciated and put to good use.
As this reformed daily newspaper man can attest, an investment in your weekly local news source is more valuable than you might imagine.