Elmwood newspaper aims to fill void left by legacy publications

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:10 PM CST
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ELMWOOD (25 News Now) - In a rural community of just 2,000, a local weekly newspaper is churning out local news, much of which you won’t find anywhere else.

For the past decade, The Weekly Post has been delivered every Thursday free-of-charge. It goes to every home in more than a dozen communities in western Peoria County and northern Fulton County. The paper operates at a fraction of the scale of many legacy papers, but the commitment to readers is the same.

“I believe there’s a function that newspapers serve that’s very important to the communities and to people and the government,” publisher Jeff Lampe said. “We attend meetings that no-one else goes to, and there’s a lot of money that’s spent at those meetings and decisions made that at least should be brought to light in some way.”

Lampe left The Peoria Journal Star a decade ago and started two papers, the largest of which is The Weekly Post. He has since built a small team, including several longtime print reporters, to attend local government meetings and sporting events.

The paper relies solely on advertising revenue, in contrast to the traditional print model which relies on subscriptions. Lampe says providing the paper for free gives them more penetration into the community, in line with what many websites do.

“As daily papers cut their staffs dramatically, it helps what we do because we’re providing something they’re not getting anywhere else.”

Over the last three decades, 25 News has reported the Journal Star has undergone massive staff reductions, from more than 100 then to less than a dozen now. The staff at The Weekly Post has grown, in contrast.

Former Journal Star columnist and current Weekly Post reporter Nick Vlahos says focusing on brief, but comprehensive hard news and sports is key for a hyper-local audience.

“The actual printed word is still valuable here,” Vlahos said. “We haven’t demeaned it. We haven’t cheapened it. And that goes for advertising as well as it goes for content.”

Readers we spoke too say they don’t miss new issues when they come out on Thursdays. Lampe said they often get calls from readers when the paper takes a rare week off.

“Everybody told me newspapers are dying,” Lampe said. “I’ve been hearing that for 20 years, and I still really think they aren’t dead yet.”