Case Study

Making Space for Face-to-Face

By Emmie Atwood, Content Manager · June 23, 2022

“We’re the archivers of history. It’s not always flashy history, but it’s critical information when it comes down to it.”
Marco Coppola, Legals Clerk, The Daily Territorial, Tucson AZ

Marco Coppola, Legals Clerk at The Daily Territorial, reflects on why it’s important for newspapers to be the legally required distributors of “legals” or public notices. “Newspapers are the appropriate caretakers of this information,” he says, “and it’s information that’s important to our community.”

The Daily Territorial is the oldest-running newspaper in Southern Arizona and is primarily focused on publishing legal and public notices for Pima County. Marco’s father, Manuel C. Coppola, has been its publisher for a number of years. Four years ago, Marco came on board. When he was growing up, one of Marco’s first newspaper jobs was taking photographs for news articles, which he remembers as exhilarating — when he’d photograph politicians, or arrests, or politicians being arrested — as well as sometimes tragic.

Over the years, Marco’s been witness to not only the everyday reporting of local journalism, but also many of the changes that the news industry itself has undergone. He used to accompany his father to Phoenix to fight legislative proposals that threatened community newspapers. Marco says that today, legislators across the country are trying to strip the public notice requirement away from local media, which would be a devastating financial loss to newspapers — and the communities they serve.

“Public notices can be a difficult and delicate thing, as people go through divorces, make changes in guardianships, or even terminate parent-child relationships. But we at the newspaper make sure publication of these notices are done right. We understand the vulnerabilities.”

People-to-people connections are important to Marco. It’s what he believes the news industry is all about. “People come in here, to our paper, unfamiliar with the process of publication,” he explains. “But having a person they can talk to, that can explain the process, makes a difference. Having a person behind it helps people trust that their information is being handled responsibly.”

Marco’s determination to keep public notice in the hands of newspapers, and his appreciation for face-to-face relationships, partly explains why he supported the decision to partner with Column, and use the Column public notice software to automate the legals publication process. Marco appreciates that Column, like The Daily Territorial and many local newspapers, is people-oriented in their business approach.

Unlike other technology companies, Column is a partner to newspapers, not a vendor. Column values real human interactions and understands the frustrations that arise when you need a real person to answer your questions and instead get an automated response. “It’s a very people-focused company,” Marco says. “From the beginning, when we first decided to implement the software, we were assigned an account manager — Kevin — who was our main point of contact. A weekly meeting was set up to ensure we were both holding each other accountable on all the things we needed to get done. Establishing that relationship made the whole transition better, especially compared to our last system where there was no one we could call. Column creates a lot of space for face-to-face check-ins.”

Being people-focused is especially vital for building trust with publishers, who tend to be skeptical of software platforms. “For some publishers, the anxiety around Column is that the company will eventually take away our clients’ information,” Marco explains. “We’re basically giving everything to Column on a silver platter and the concern is that we’ll be cut out as the middle man.”

In reality, Column has no interest in eliminating the newspaper as the distribution mechanism of public notice. Marco says that he realized early on that Column genuinely believes in local news, which assuaged his anxieties. It also helped that Jake, the CEO and Founder, was from a newspaper family like Marco.

“I see that Jake has the same relationship with his family that a lot of us newspaper people do — he shares our values and has witnessed the same challenges over the years. It’s nice to work with a company that has these relationships built in. For other newspapers, this may not be as important, but I like working with people who have it ingrained in their personalities.”

Marco appreciates that Jake has shown up to legislative sessions to speak against destructive public notice policy changes. “That’s important for me — to see that Jake is willing to fight the good fight, to hold the courts and legislators accountable.” On top of that, the personal relationships that Marco has with Column employees further alleviate the skepticism that’s common for publishers to have towards new technology companies. The Column team consistently makes sure that the public notice software supports The Daily Territorial as best it can. “Having the relationships we do with the Column team — with Kevin, Chris, Emily, Leo, Madeline, Kerri, Vipul, and Bo — has built a bridge of trust.”

Marco is clear, however, that the need to modernize — and stay abreast of legislative changes — was what primarily drove his newspaper’s decision to partner with Column. “Because of the environment we’re in right now, it made the most sense,” Marco says. “Column was offering a product that we’d been desperately needing. Not only does Column’s tool help our community have better access to legal notices, Column also promotes increased accessibility for public notices, which lets more people see what their local government is doing. Column also makes my job a whole lot easier.”

Working with publishers to understand their needs and co-create features is a key characteristic of Column that Marco appreciates. He’s collaborated with Column on feature enhancement that all of Column’s publishing partners ultimately benefit from. “Column listens to what we need, then builds it,” Marco says. “Kevin and Chris have been able to modify the system to accommodate what we need most. There are a few examples of things we’ve helped spearhead with Column — like bulk invoicing and bulk downloading. More recently, we partnered on a project that would make the process of handling affidavits more efficient.”

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone who works at Column. I really feel like we all work together. We’re a team, and our teamwork has made the Column product stronger. More importantly, our teamwork has made the future of public notice stronger. I’m excited to see what other projects we can work together on.”

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