Publisher, commissioners discuss online news service

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Editors note: This is an account of an exchange between the publisher of the Linn County Journal with the Linn County Commission in an open meeting. While we don't seek to make the news, we do seek to report it objectively. This is an account of that exchange. You can go to a live streaming video of this meeting by clicking here.

MOUND CITY – Roger Sims, publisher of the Linn County Journal, an online news service, spoke with the Linn County Commission on Monday, Sept. 13.

Sims told the commissioners that the Linn County Journal began in May 2021 after several people had approached him about the need for a balanced, objective news source for Linn County.

Publishing the news on a website is much cheaper than doing it by newsprint, said Sims, adding that printing is very expensive and there were few printers for small newspapers remaining.

Sims said he started thinking about developing the website last year but pushed it back because other things came up. This year we decided to go ahead and do it, said Sims, noting that many people do not take the official Linn County paper.

“Our approach to covering commission is a little bit different, we are going to take issues and research them and report on them,” he said. “And we are also going to do more enterprise stories.”

He pointed to a recent article about the increase in property valuation and how that will eventually affect taxes.

Our main thing is to do fair and balanced articles, Sims said. He said the Journal didn’t support one party over the other. The Journal uses state news from several sources, particularly from the Kansas Reflector.

Sims said that the Journal staff had worked a lot on providing content, and now they were working on selling advertising to support it. He added that he had received quite a few contributions from people who want to see it work.

Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson asked if the only revenue the paper received was from ads.

Sims said that was the plan, while right now the paper was working off donations. He said the plan is to make it a free website, so readers do not need to have a subscription to get it.

The Journal is working toward high school sports coverage, he said.

For people that subscribe to the Journal’s free email services, emails are sent out weekly that tell what the top stories are. Many people also follow the website on Facebook.

Johnson asked what the rules of Linn County were for an official newspaper.

Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson said they were spelled out by statute.

Sims said the requirements were you have to provide a physical paper, for 50 weeks of the year, be registered with the post office as a periodical carrier, paid general circulation in the county, and be in business for a year.

Commission Chair Rick James asked if there was not an exemption for cities.

Thompson said some cities have a home rule where they can change the requirements. The law does not apply to every city equally. The cities can make a resolution opting out of the law.

James asked if the cities of Pleasanton, Mound City, and La Cygne have to place ads the same way the county does.

Thompson said they only things they have to place in the official newspaper are official notices.

There are some work-arounds for state regulations, said Sims, adding that those regulations were general enough to provide latitude to meet them, but he also said it will take a while for his company to get there. “The main thing we are focusing on first is coverage,” he said.

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