Essay Project 2021: Portland News
By Ava Guilford
Chris Britcher, editor at Kent on Sunday, once said, “The local newspaper is that tangible critical friend of all our communities, celebrating the good and highlighting the bad; crafted by those who live in the local area and who care passionately about what they do” (Maxim 2016). The Portland Review & Observer is a weekly newspaper in Portland, MI. This newspaper source was started to cover local news, sports, business and community events. The Review & Observer is published weekly on Sundays. Their first publication began in 1867 (Mondo Times 2001-2021). However, over the years the Portland Review & Observer has started covering less local news and has moved to educating readers on more regional news. As a result, Jim Townsend, owner of The Portland Beacon, created this true online local news source. The Portland Beacon focuses on covering local high school sports, promotes local businesses and shares important information occurring at city council and school board meetings.
The Portland Beacon made its first post in August, 2017; however, the process to establish this information source was not trouble-free. The first step was to perform significant research on the local news industry and develop a business plan. After Townsend was able to acquire a plan the next step was to purchase The Portland Beacon domain. He also secured social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Once The Portland Beacon was on multiple platforms the new challenge was to obtain advertisement from local small business owners. Townsend focused on keeping expenses to a minimum, and slowly gained contributors.
The process of starting The Portland Beacon was not the only difficult task that Townsend had to overcome. Creating a reputation of being an accurate, transparent and unbiased news source was another obstacle that arose. When asked about early challenges with The Beacon, Townsend stated, “[He is] Not just some dude blogging about local rumors”, and “The mission of The Portland Beacon is to brief the residents of Portland, Michigan, about the current affairs of this community, by serving as a fair, accurate and transparent information source. Our goal is to serve as a steward of the community by educating citizens so as to encourage a more engaged and vibrant community (The Portland Beacon 2020)”. The other complication that was faced included creating revenue. Many citizens expect the news to be free of charge. But, smaller outlets have difficulty generating enough advertisement to cover to their expenses.
Jim Townsend is the owner of The Portland Beacon, but he also has many other contributors that help with The Beacon. Only a few contributors are paid per piece that they write while the rest are volunteers. Townsend says, “I could not do it without the volunteers”. The contributing writers include: Robert Lathers, Pete Hoffmeyer, Jordan D. Smith, and Benjamin Rex Cross. Popular articles from The Portland Beacon incorporate local high school sports and city council and school board news. Another important member of the team is my mom, Amy Guilford, who serves as a sports photographer. Guilford says, “As a life long resident and parent of school aged children I am so appreciative of the benefits the Portland Beacon has provided our community. I enjoy playing a small role in providing greater recognition and visibility of our local athletes.”
Local news is a crucial necessity for all communities. It provides cities with important information and events. The Portland Beacon was developed after Jim Townsend noticed the Portland Review & Observer starting focusing less on local news. The Beacon is true local news source that covers local high school sports, important information that is occurring at the City Hall and school board meetings, also promoting local small businesses.
“About: the-Portland-Beacon.” The, 31 Dec. 1969, www.theportlandbeacon.com/about.
“Contact: the-Portland-Beacon.” The, 31 Dec. 1969, www.theportlandbeacon.com/contact.
“Lansing State Journal Portland Community Section.” Lansing State Journal, Lansing State Journal, www.lansingstatejournal.com/news/communities-portland/.
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“Portland, MI - Official Website: Official Website.” Portland, MI - Official Website | Official Website, www.portland-michigan.org/.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.