Mission remains the same

Mission remains the same

By Greg Cozad

As a member of the Stevick Foundation board since 2007, I enjoy readers' comments about The News-Gazette and its related entities. The Stevick Foundation owns 100 percent of the stock of The News-Gazette Inc., and our mission, in part, is to try to provide a newspaper and radio stations that add to the quality of life for area residents.

It has been hard to watch the dramatic changes that have taken place in the newspaper industry over the last seven years. Advertising revenues from national advertisers have softened and classified ads have dropped dramatically. Changes in technology and how people receive their news are shifting quickly. Circulation hangs in there but is a long-term concern given the changing age demographic of readers.

But operating in a continually difficult and fast-moving business environment, The News Gazette continues to produce a newspaper that, as a board, we believe is of a very high standard.

While traveling, I often read newspapers in other communities of similar size (frequently university towns) and am blown away by how much more in-depth coverage The News-Gazette provides at all levels. The quality and depth of many publications have dwindled to skeletons of their former selves. Many papers belong to national chains that have stripped staffs and made local coverage sparse.

In the backdrop of all the above, The News-Gazette continues to fight the good fight, cranking out strong publications on a daily basis. It is not immune to the challenges but is striving to survive and even excel despite them. Having a dedicated and talented staff is vital. Last year, News-Gazette publications won 21 state first-place print awards, and WDWS was named the Illinois Broadcasters Associations Station of the Year.

The Stevick Foundation provides financial support to two supported organizations — The Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and the University of Illinois Foundation. Since inception, it has distributed in excess of $1 million to those supported organizations, in spite of the challenges to profitability in this industry.

While financial support to them is important, what is much harder to quantify is what a vital and vibrant newspaper brings to the Champaign—Urbana area. How do you place a dollar figure on that?

The News-Gazette in many ways adds to the fabric and flow of our community. Whether it be local coverage, sports, business or the editorial page, the paper is read and reacted to. You may not agree with all that is written or how some changes have been made to the structure of the paper (many are made to effect needed cost savings), but you care and react. It is great to live in a community that has a newspaper that engages its citizens and is read by so many.

The News-Gazette has its own board of directors appointed by the Stevick Foundation. The News-Gazette board has a roster of talented business people as well as people with national experience and exposure in the newspaper business. The foundation's unique ownership helps attract these highly qualified people, who are striving to keep The News-Gazette viable financially while producing a quality product.

This structure of The News Gazette's ownership and governance is unique in allowing the board to keep the broader community in mind in its decision-making process when compared with private ownership by an entity outside the area.

No one for sure knows how the next five or 10 years will impact the newspaper industry. The rate of change does not seem to be slowing. There are no guarantees. What does endure is the mission and the vision of the Stevick Foundation and The News-Gazette, Inc.

That is to serve the community by providing a high-quality newspaper and radio stations that enhance the lives of those in the area.

Greg Cozad is a Champaign businessman and serves on the board of The Marajen Stevick Foundation.