This month, the Tulsa Beacon celebrated its 16th anniversary. Susan and I started the newspaper on April 25, 2001.
Have we been successful? Well, yes and no.
Our longevity is a good measure of success. Since 2001, many newspapers have gone out of business. That includes the Glenpool Post (which we started in 1984 and sold in 1988), the Jenks Journal, the Bixby Bulletin (where I was managing editor in 1977), and most recently, the Broken Arrow Ledger.
The Tulsa World, which bought out the Tulsa Tribune in 1993 and promptly ceased its publication, bought almost every little paper in the metro area two years ago, including the Broken Arrow Ledger. The World parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, apparently cares more about profits than servicing one of the fastest growing cities in Oklahoma with hometown news.
When we started the Tulsa Beacon, our plans were to turn it into a daily paper and go head to head with the Tulsa World. The financing to do so never materialized and it is probably just as well. Had we become a daily, we might not have survived the downtown in the newspaper industry.
It’s a tough business.
We went through some rough years financially but we trusted in God to provide for us and He did. In the last few years, our publication of legal notices has been a godsend. Tulsa County Treasurer Dennis Semler has been a good friend and customer and so have a host of Tulsa attorneys.
People don’t spend much on print advertising these days. A few decades ago, supermarkets, car dealers and most retailers would spend a big chunk of their budget on newspaper ads.
Oklahoma has 130 casinos and they spend a lot, mostly on TV and radio but they will buy newspaper ads in papers to help prevent stories that are critical of what so much gambling is doing to the lives of families in Oklahoma.
When gambling was legalized, a couple of casinos contacted me to run ads every week and I refused. It would mean a lot of money to our bottom line but I won’t promote anything that is bad for people. We don’t run liquor ads or smoking ads, either.
Technology has been on our side. In 1984, we bought a reconditioned typesetter for $14,000 in order to produce the Glenpool Post. Now, we design the Tulsa Beacon on a $1,300 Apple for a fraction of the cost. And with digital photography, we don’t have to buy film and pay for developing like we used to.
Our circulation figures have dipped over the years. Part of the reason is the young people don’t read newspapers. Another reason is that many people are getting their news from the Internet and their cellphones.
According to Editor & Publisher, a newspaper trade magazine, local papers still top the list of what people read. According to a survey, 65 percent said they preferred the local paper. Then came USA Today (17 percent), New York Daily News (13 percent), New York Times (12 percent), Wall Street Journal (11 percent), Newsday (9 percent), Washington Post (7 percent), New York Post (2 percent), LA Times (2 percent) and Chicago Tribune (2 percent).
Editor & Publisher placed the Oklahoman in a list of “10 Newspapers that Do It Right.” In that issue, the daily circulation of the Oklahoman was listed at 105,832. Wow. That’s a low figure for what once was the “state newspaper.” By the way, the Oklahoman is now being printed by the Tulsa World because the Oklahoman didn’t want a long-term investment in equipment to replace their 40-year-old printing press.
We still have a great group of core subscribers. Most of them buy the Tulsa Beacon to get the news without the liberal bias of the Tulsa World or the liberal TV and radio stations. Some buy it because they like the Christian flavor of the Tulsa Beacon and they want to support us as they would a Christian ministry. That’s great.
Part of our success has been to influence news coverage in Tulsa. Newspapers, TV stations and radio stations control public opinion by what they cover and by what they refuse to cover. We have trained the spotlight on several stories over the years that have forced the mainstream media to cover. They don’t like it but it does create a level of accountability.
I think we have helped some good people get elected to important public positions. We have fought the unchecked growth of government and battled for low taxation.
Trust me, there are many politicians who wish we would go away. Some of those are Republicans.
What does the future hold for the Tulsa Beacon?
I can’t answer that. We really enjoy publishing the paper. Our health is good. I anticipate doing this for several more years and then perhaps someone else will take up the challenge.
And someone needs to stand up to the liberal mainstream media.