SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – As Thanksgiving week rolls around again, it’s time to wish a Happy Birthday number 3 to the Shrewsbury Lantern itself! (Oh it’s also my birthday next week, and I’m older than 3.) I was visiting my folks that year, down in New Jersey, when I first came up with the idea, and the day after turkey day, while everyone was hanging out watching football, I decided to do a bit of programming, and voila, the Shrewsbury Lantern made it’s debut. Long before the “Patch,” and the “Daily Shrewsbury,” long before the other newspapers saw the efficiency and value of an online presence, I kicked it off with nothing more than an idea of creating an open media platform designed to focus only on Shrewsbury issues, to do so with “near real time” precision, and provide a way for local residents to tell the world about the great work they do every day.
One of the real goals, and something which I’m happy to say we accomplished, was to help inform the community about the great things that are happening each and every day here in Shrewsbury, that weren’t able to get the attention of the traditional brick and mortar newspapers. As I have said before, when the SHS varsity football team plays St. John’s, every newspaper in the area covered the game, but who was there covering the cross country or field hockey achievements, the sprinters competing at the state championship, the amazing presentation of Almost Maine at SHS, the cub scout can and bottle drives, or the bell ringers at the First Congregational Church. As advertisers pulled back from the actual “newspapers,” the number of pages shrank precipitously, and with it the space available for running community related events, making it harder than ever for groups to get the word out.
One thing that hadn’t been expected, but has been a big asset, as been the ability to become the “go to news source” in the case of emergencies, both in Shrewsbury, and around the region. When tornadoes approached, when the ice storm took out power to most of the town, when the Halloween blizzard hit with little warning, or even during Hurricane Sandy, we were on the job reporting the news in real time, and connecting Shrewsbury residents both with information, and in many cases with each other. Another surprise has been the huge reach on a national level that we have seen. The first glimpse of that for me was that simple restaurant review I did earlier in the year that mentioned Tommy Bahama, that resulted in their donation of hundreds of amazing new outfits to Andy’s Attic. Surprisingly, that kind of thing happens all the time now. We mention Walmart in an article, and hear from their corporate team the same day. An article about the Leaders of Tomorrow Adopt a Family drive has generated not only emails from Shrewsbury families wanting to donate, but from companies around the area that want to pitch in. Even the review we did on the new Crosby, Stills and Nash CD/DVD (a perfect holiday gift by the way), was picked up by AP and broadcast around the world. Yes, for all it’s pro’s and con’s the internet is a pretty amazing thing, so thanks Al Gore for that.
Since that time just three years ago, things have grown more exponentially than we could have ever imagined, to the point where we have sometimes seen over 8000 page views in a single day, and for that we send out a huge thanks to the people of Shrewsbury who turn to it each day for the most up to date information on this great town we call home. The best part, at least in my opinion, is that we’ve done that while maintaining some class and decorum, without trying to make a “news story” out of every falling leaf, without emailing 2000 people every day, and without trying to crank up page views by imploring you to vote for your favorite donut each week. As Sgt. Joe Friday said, we give you “just the facts.” I suppose one reason for that is that we remain committed to the fact that the Shrewsbury Lantern is the only news site that isn’t drive by ad sales, page views and profit, which it was never about anyway. No, we exist purely for the love of the town of Shrewsbury itself. Any advertisements we do allow, which is rare, are really reserved usually for local businesses and friends we know and love, are not brought in to generate money, but to provide a little extra exposure and encourage people to shop local at a time when we all need to stick together.
We still are looking for people who want to contribute in some way. Perhaps that’s you! We need people to do restaurant reviews, cover local sporting events, interview local officials and more. This could be student interns from college or high school, looking to build their resume, or just as easily anyone with a passion for Shrewsbury, and a love of writing. If that’s you, why not drop an email and describe what your particular field of expertise is, and we’ll make a spot for you as a regular columnist.
Thanks again to everyone for all of your love and support. Keep on reading, and most of all please keep the story ideas coming. We are here to be your hometown news source and to serve the community. We can only do that with your suggestions coming in all the time. Oh by the way, someone asked me just the other day what our “biggest story” has been over the years, so I took some time today to go back and check. The answer surprised even me, but it most definitely put a smile on my face. Can you loyal readers remember which one it was? If you guessed the April Fools story about the 100 pound catfish in Lake Quinsigamond, you’d be right! If you’d like a chuckle, check out the story again at this link, and be sure to read the comments that went along with it. http://shrewsbury.net/?p=17430