The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, is one of the most successful print news organizations statewide. Although the news outlet has evolved since its first publication in 1872, it continues to remain dedicated to covering local news and sports across northeastern Mississippi counties and to publishing print versions of its daily newspaper. The Daily Journal is currently one of only seven outlets in the state that continues to publish daily print newspapers and is the only one of these that remains locally owned.
Three hours south of Tupelo, the Jackson-based Clarion-Ledger covers the state’s capital and five other counties in the greater Jackson-Metropolitan area. The Clarion-Ledger boasts the highest newspaper circulation in the state at 45,093 followed by the Daily Journal at 35,989. The Clarion-Ledger covers the largest market yet leads the circulation runner-up by fewer than 10,000. Perhaps the surprisingly small difference in circulation can be attributed to the differences between corporate and local ownership.
According to social media posts by consumers in the Jackson-Metro area, the corporately owned Clarion-Ledger, a Gannett publication and part of the USA Today Network, is geared more towards pedaling nationwide and international news and trends that can be consumed easily by TV or social media rather than toward significant local news and sports that is often not accessible from other sources. This, combined with the decreasing page depth and steeply rising subscription costs has led many consumers to cancel subscriptions. Negative press about how Gannett treats its employees has likely decreased consumer confidence in the publication as well.
The Daily Journal, technically owned by the local company, Journal, Inc., is largely supported by a local charitable group whose mission is to fund local projects that benefit the community. On the other side, Gannett holds numerous national assets in the print and digital news industry. It is because of this broader corporate interest that John Pitts, sports editor of the Daily Journal, believes asset management has led to negligence in reporting local news in smaller and less popular areas like Jackson. He and his co-workers are advised not to abandon their roots in the northeastern part of the state.
“Decisions can be made on the ground here based on our understanding of the market. A promise was made to us that we’re going to be part of a thing that will endure and endure in a way that would be beneficial later on,” Pitts said. “It’s ghastly to see what’s going on at these corporately owned papers. I can go across the hall and we can make a decision.”
Because of community support, the Daily Journal has a healthy variety of staff in most areas, all of which have a goal in mind, goals shared by the executive editor and Tupelo native Sam Hall.
Pitts is grateful that his employer has been able to maintain its staffing level so that the business side of the organization can fully plan ahead to meet the needs of the next generation of readers. Pitts explained that the Daily Journal is not immune to the things that affect everyone else but it may have a different way of absorbing it.
“Whoever owns you, the labor costs are the same. We’re not shipping the proceeds to a corporate situation. The community ownership manifests itself. We have responsibilities to them to be good stewards,” Pitts said. “I think everyone who’s here wants to be here. Most everyone in those other places are trying to go somewhere else. That’s been the nature of things. Our job is to continue to keep the existence of the Daily Journal.”
While the day-to-day operations of the various news organizations are relatively the same, according to Pitts, the local approach and philosophy of the Daily Journal give it a reason to go the extra mile in meeting the needs of its employees as well as its readership. In doing so, the Daily Journal is not so focused on the traditional manner of serving local news to its consumers that it has neglected to adapt to the changing industry. It publishes digital editions of its newspaper as well as print and maintains a full-time digital content producer to better serve northeast Mississippi citizens with local information as news delivery methods continue to evolve.