The year of 2011 was the year of red-light cameras, a failed private school endeavor and city employees embezzling taxpayer dollars. A vicious murderer was brought to justice; a new town crier was christened; the business community beat a proposed tax on their livelihoods; an industrial dinosaur, the GenOn power plant, agreed to shut off and leave town.
This year brought Alexandria an earthquake, a new brewery and a Civil War sesquicentennial commemorating — not celebrating — the four-year occupation of the city. Some battles, like the clash over the waterfront’s future, will rage into 2012.
It’s been a dynamic year. As the city’s most dynamic newspaper, the Alexandria Times holds public officials accountable day after day, week after week, so we would be remiss not to likewise hold ourselves accountable.
In last year’s Visions of Alexandria edition, the Times made a New Year’s resolution — a sort of checklist of what we wanted to achieve. “This new year will be the year the Times focuses diligently on its web presence without abandoning the romantic yet necessary medium of print journalism,” we told readers. “Your publication, the Times, will delve further into the city over the next year, become more diverse in its coverage and our presentation, and continue to improve as an advertising vehicle for local, regional and national businesses.”
Check. After months of preparation the Times launched a new website (www.alextimes.com) in November. Along with it came a new strategy that keeps up with the changing times of journalism — more news updates, more often. We have become an online and print publication, rather than simply a print publication with a website.
In 2011, the Times’ in-depth reporting informed and entertained a city of 140,000 people. Our columnists offered expertise on pets, health, senior living and the law. All of our coverage was locally relevant, including human-interest stories and features. Editorials on local issues promoted civic engagement and helped affect change, like the elimination of the add-on tax that would have otherwise suffocated small businesses.
We revamped our layout to present all of this in an attractive and easy-to-read manner, with color on every page, adding to the paper’s aesthetics while providing a punch for advertisers. As a result, our advertising revenue jumped more than 31 percent.
The Times was happy to give back to the community in other ways, too, by donating a portion of our advertising proceeds to various non-profits in Alexandria through our Cause of the Month.
While we’ve achieved our goals from last year, the old cliché rings true: There’s always room for improvement. In 2012, we resolve to increase our circulation of 18,000 and cast a wider net for our readers and advertisers. The paper depends on advertising to remain a free publication. And more ad revenue means bigger papers, more resources and more local content.
On the coverage side of things, the Times resolves to further enhance its web presence and online interaction with readers with more video and social media. And as Alexandria becomes more urban and culturally significant, we will enhance our arts and entertainment coverage, tapping into a community of creative locals. Finally, we hope to further affect change with original insight and your ideas on the opinion pages.
Without readers, though, the Alexandria Times — and our yearly resolutions — would be impossible. So as you thumb through this year’s Visions of Alexandria retrospective, know that it’s your interest and engagement that drives our commitment to local news. Thank you. This is your Times.
Patrice Culligan, Publisher & David Sachs, Editor-in-Chief