I felt like the bee’s knees after winning the 2018 NMEAC Award for Investigative Journalism last month (read about it here), so I’m super excited to take home yet another local award. I’m very honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Red Hot Best of Northern Michigan Award for Best Newspaper Reporter, sponsored by MyNorth Media, which publishes Traverse Magazine.
MyNorth hosted a lovely gathering for all the winners in their downtown Traverse City office on May 22, and Tim and I were thrilled to stop by, pick up the award, and chat with some of the other winners. You can see all the winners in the June 2018 issue of Traverse Magazine.
This award is voted on by the people of northern Michigan, which makes it even more special. Plus, I only discovered that I’d been nominated shortly before the voting closed, so I didn’t have a ton of time to “campaign” and get the vote out. Next year!
I came in third for Best Newspaper Reporter, following frontrunner Beth Milligan, who writes for the Traverse City Ticker (big kudos to her – I had that job years ago, and it’s a relentless chase of deadlines and interviews, not to mention dealing with online commenters – good for you, Beth, for hanging in there!), and second place winner James Cook, a sports writer for the Traverse City Record-Eagle. While I’ve only written a couple of sports stories for the Record-Eagle, I wrote thousands of other stories for them back in the day. When you’ve been in the writing business for going on 40 years, you’ve written for just about every publication on the planet at one time or another.
Some of you may know the story of how I started Old Mission Gazette, which actually dates all the way back to the 1960s, when I was a kid growing up on a cherry farm in Old Mission. I knew I’d either be a writer, a veterinarian, or a horticulturist – and writing won out. I published my very first Old Mission Peninsula newspaper when I was about eight years old. Back then, the stories were about my horse Copper, dog Jennifer, and whatever else was going on in my idyllic childhood growing up on the shores of East Bay (I’m grateful every day that I hit the jackpot when it comes to growing up on a farm in the best place on the planet).
It only took me 50 years, but after decades of writing for local papers (Northern Express, Record-Eagle, Traverse Magazine, TC Business News, etc.) and hundreds of national and international publications (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, Ladies’ Home Journal, Variety, and so on and so forth), I’m finally back to publishing another Old Mission Peninsula newspaper, this time covering hard news, feature stories, photos, history and much more – in, of course, Old Mission Gazette, this very online newspaper you’re reading, launched just three years ago in 2015.
It’s a funny thing to begin your writing career with local publications, switch to national and international publications, and then return to writing about your beloved homeland, the Old Mission Peninsula. I always knew this is what I was meant to do – even when I was eight years old. It just took me a while to get back here.
In the meantime, I learned everything there is to know about journalism, photography (ok, still working on that one), building websites, SEO (search engine optimization), social media, working with advertisers, and most important, writing stories that people actually want to read. That one is pretty easy when you’re talking about the Old Mission Peninsula. I am merely a vessel, my friends.
To see where Old Mission Gazette has come in just three short years is nothing short of miraculous. We now average about 100,000 pageviews every day (real people, not web-bots), and readers spend an average of 30 minutes on the website. That’s a phenomenal length of time for a web-based community newspaper.
While people can read new stories published every day ON the Gazette website (bookmark OldMission.net in your browser, or make it your homepage!), our email newsletter, sent out three times a week, is a summary of new stories published, designed to encourage readers to click through and read them on the website.
The Gazette email newsletter currently has 10,041 subscribers, 65 percent of whom live on the Old Mission Peninsula either year-round or during the summer. (Didn’t think we had that many people out here? Guess again! The 2016 census figure of 5831 doesn’t include summer residents). The other 35 percent are people in the Grand Traverse Region and those who live elsewhere – many of whom grew up on the Old Mission Peninsula.
By the way, the click-through rate on the newsletter (the folks who actually click through the story links and read them on the website), is around 80 percent, which, again, is an amazing percentage in the world of digital publishing. Clearly, people WANT to know what’s happening on the Peninsula, and the Gazette has become that source of information.
And then there’s social media, which I love! We have an active and engaged readership on Facebook (daily reach of 14,000), Twitter (12,000 impressions daily) and Instagram (6,000 impressions daily). My kids keep telling me that Snapchat is where it’s at and I need to get the Gazette on there. So that might be next.
Oh, I have lots of ideas. I really want to start an Old Mission Gazette podcast, but I haven’t quite worked that into the schedule yet. But, you know, once something gets in my head, I usually find a way to make it happen, even if it takes 50 years.
Last year, my husband Tim and I launched the Old Mission Peninsula Store, an online store where we sell Old Mission Peninsula T-shirts, hats, photos, bumper stickers and lots more. We’ll be hawking those at the Old Mission Art Fair this summer. More on that later.
Also, I’ve recently started accepting new advertisers for the Gazette, so if you’re interested, check out our Media Kit here. I love promoting local businesses and welcome the opportunity to promote yours.
Thank you to everyone who voted for us in the 2018 Red Hot Best awards! And thank you, dear readers, for your dedication and encouragement. It is greatly appreciated as I navigate the world of publishing a thriving digital community newspaper on this beautiful Peninsula.