And many more

Most journalists start our careers hoping to “make a difference” in life.

It sounds kind of dopey when it’s written down, but it’s the truth. This is a job that doesn’t pay as much as many, and it’s a job that doesn’t have clear demarcations of success.

We just write stories, take pictures, sell advertising and design things as well as we can, and we hope you read them in print or online. And here in local journalism, since you’re not paying for our publications, we sell advertising to pay for what we do, and we hope all of that talk about “living local” means you’ll spend money with the neighborhood businesses that support our venture.

Without getting too sappy, all of that is what a few of us were thinking 25 years ago when we spent some cold, dark April nights between midnight and 4 a.m. delivering the first Advocates to homes in our first neighborhood.

We delivered them ourselves because we couldn’t afford to hire anyone, and we delivered them after midnight because we had other full-time jobs and because we weren’t sure how you would feel about waking up and finding a new publication lying in your yard.

Fortunately, most of you liked what you saw in that scruffy, 16-page publication, which was filled with local stories and photos we dug up and wrote ourselves.

This month marks our 25th year and 300th monthly issue, and these days, we’re not personally delivering our magazines anymore, although with that early training, we could do it if we had to. We like to think our publications today look and read a whole lot better than the originals, thanks entirely to a dedicated group of journalists and designers and salespeople who are far better than we ever were at finding stories you want to read and telling those stories in a way that makes neighbors feel like friends.

We had seven advertisers in that first issue, and we took in just enough money to pay our printing bill. Today, we help several hundred local business people bring their message to you each month, and we know you’re patronizing these businesses because they tell us so.

It’s hard to sit here today and point to any one thing we’ve done during the past 25 years that achieves our original goal of “making a difference.” Hopefully, we’ve given you an opportunity to become involved in things that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about, and hopefully, we’ve introduced you to a bunch of neighbors and businesses you would never have otherwise met.

Those are small things, to be sure, but since most of us aren’t going to be elected president or win the Mega Millions lottery, it’s these small things in life that most impact our families and our lives anyway.

When 25 years of hyper-local journalism is boiled down to something so simple, it’s a wonder we’re still in business.

But we are, and unlike so many others in journalism these days, we’re growing.

And if you don’t mind, we’re going to just keep doing what we’ve been doing and worry about the final tally some day if we ever run out of stories to tell about neighbors we admire and local businesses we respect.