My name is Peter Hussmann and I am the Newton Independent.
For more than 20 years, I have been an award-winning journalist covering Newton and Jasper County, Iowa; first as a reporter and editor of the Newton Daily News and since 2008 as the publisher of this online news site. While editor at the Daily News, I lead the paper's transition from a sleepy "who served" broadsheet to the best newspaper in its circulation class in 2007 judging by the Iowa Newspaper Association, the first and only time the Newton newspaper has received the best-of-class award.
Philosophical and business practice differences between out-of-state corporate ownership and myself lead to my decision to leave the paper. Corporate's profit over people principles, exclusionary news payment policies (paid weddings and obituaries, as examples) and the elimination of its news resources (such as dropping its long-standing Associated Press membership and staff layoffs) were moves that would undermine the value of the product. But the real losers would be the residents of the community the paper serves.
And this site was born as a result of my predictions coming to pass. In late 2008, it was known within the community that a local councilman was living outside the community, a situation that should have lead to his immediate resignation. Unbelievably, the paper was silent on the issue. Though I had been investigating the possibility of establishing an online news site, I had yet to take the plunge. The issue pushed me over the edge. Hurriedly, I assembled a site and posted what the record showed. The councilman quickly resigned.
There is no doubt the media landscape is changing. Traditional models are being challenged as new forms of media arise across a variety of platforms. A printing press is no longer needed when a modem will suffice. But what doesn't change is the necessity of journalism to an informed citizenry. As the evolution continues, people will more and more come to rely upon those they can trust to provide the information necessary for their decision making. Those with the "best reputations and trust networks," as Craigslist founder Craig Newmark described them to journalism students recently, will be the ones to gain influence as the transition continues.
Journalism is a public good worth supporting.