I joined the Circle of Friends group to talk local journalism and answer questions from a group of about 16 members on April 23 in the Martinsburg Branch Library Community Room. The lovely ladies were very welcoming and asked good questions.

I spoke for about 15 minutes on my background as an Audrain County farm boy turned reporter (and now an editor), as well as describing some of the nuts and bolts of how our operation works to bring together what were several separate newsrooms into one central hub. They then asked about topics like the state of local journalism in the digital age. We touched on how social media simultaneously plays positive and negative roles in modern reporting by allowing everyone to more easily share information, from local government reporters sharing city council stories to businesses that used to rely much more heavily on newspaper advertising but have since transitioned into Facebook advertising.

We also discussed the current workflow of The Mexico Ledger — our nearest paper to Martinsburg — as it exists within the larger umbrella of GateHouse Missouri, which also includes publications like the Moberly Monitor-Index, Boonville Daily News, Hannibal Courier-Post and Columbia Daily Tribune. Most of the ladies seemed to agree that there is a benefit to our regional hub. We can more easily share our best stories between the area communities, because people tend to have family members in other area communities, as well as a general interest in what’s going on in Mid-Missouri outside of their community. But the ladies said it is important to balance that with the strictly local and larger national coverage that they’d come to expect, such as a very adamant request for St. Louis Cardinals coverage. While things like the farm markets and TV guide aren’t likely to return to our pages, we do our best to provide the biggest stories near and far, with preference placed on local journalism.

Full disclosure, I was invited to speak with the Circle of Friends by my grandmother, Donna Fennewald, but I hope this could be one of many outreach events in which our journalists can talk shop with community members throughout Mid-Missouri. While there are enough Fennewalds, it would be great if someone outside the family would like to make a similar invitation.

Thus far, I’ve also attended the Wine and Shine in Moberly and gave a presentation about best submission practices at the Missouri CAFO Summit. We will also plan additional morning Coffee with the Editor meetings, which I’ve introduced in Mexico, Moberly and Boonville. I’ve had a few area residents kindly suggest that an evening Beer with the Editor may draw a better crowd, so we will see about trying that out in the future.

I look forward to the next opportunity to interact with our readers, and I must admit that I especially enjoyed the informal environment of the Circle of Friends group, which was kind enough to listen to me speak off the cuff in a more casual, yet in-depth way than I am usually capable of relaying on the editorial page.

As always, thank you to all our dedicated readers who help keep local journalism alive every time they resubscribe to their town’s newspaper. We very literally couldn’t do it without you.