Launching an alt-weekly from scratch

Babette Hermann has now done two things few reporters will ever do: she quit a full-time reporting job at a daily newspaper and she’s starting her own weekly pub in the same town. Hermann was on staff at the six-day-a-week Gallup Independent in Gallup, New Mexico, when she became fed up with what she says was an eight-story-a-week quota imposed from above. Her next gig: launching an alt-weekly called The Gallup Post, to be published as a print-only tabloid  costing 75 cents. The paper hits newsstands Feb. 6 with a run of of 2,500 to 3,000. It also lands just as the alt-weekly world is undergoing massive upheaval. Each issue will include a feature or investigative story on the cover, local, op-ed, arts and entertainment, and business news. Ebyline recently caught up with Hermann to discuss the launch.

Why are you launching this paper?

Well, weeklies are no stranger to Gallup. The last one folded in October, with the owner citing business mistakes as one of his major downfalls. I was working for the local daily newspaper and didn’t like that we had an eight story quota to fill each week. I was really focused on investigative and in-depth pieces. Anyhow, after that weekly folded, a friend of mine, who happens to be a savvy businessman, told me he would back me if I started a weekly. So, here I am.

Who are your competitors, and how will you be different?

I am not sure who our competitors are at this early juncture. We don’t plan on competing with the daily newspaper or the feel-good newspapers in the area.

What is your business model?

Well, I am new to all the lingo in the world of business. My model is to put out a good weekly newspaper with a timely cover story. It’s really for the community. I want them to be informed and entertained.

How many employees are you starting off with—full, part time and/or
freelance, and what are their roles?

I have one full-time advertising representative, two part-time graphic artists and about nine freelance writers on the roster, including one photographer. One or two of the writers may commit to copy-editing on deadline day. [Here’s the paper’s help wanted ad on JournalismJobs.com—Ed.]

How are you funding the paper’s launch and with how much money to
start? Where will you print the paper?

I would rather not say how much money, but I am on a tight budget. We are printing the paper in Santa Fe and having it delivered to our location.

You aren’t planning on launching your website for six months to a year—why not, and how important will digital be to your business model, in this era when papers are cutting back on print editions and putting much more focus on online and mobile?

We are aiming to launch a business website that will feature company information, plus give customers the ability to purchase classifieds. We also want to put on the site where we plan on selling the paper and provide AP news for free. We are surrounded by the Navajo Nation, and many of our residents don’t have Internet and depend on the newspaper for their news. I want to launch a full website, but don’t see the profit in it at this point in time. When and if we decide to put our newspaper online, a paywall or partial paywall must be considered.

Feature photo via Creative Commons license courtesy of laffy4k.

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About Tim Sohn

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and on Twitter @editortim. Also, check out his website at TimothyJSohn.com.

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