Case Study

Small Town Newspaper Takes On Change

By Emmie Atwood, Content Manager · June 22, 2022

Rhonda has worked at the Augusta Daily Gazette since 1972. Since then, Rhonda's experienced a lot of change at the newspaper. “We’ve been through many different owners, and technological transitions,” she says. Their first ever computer was an Apple 6E, “a little square box.” Rhonda notes that she’s been through almost every level of Mac computer, though now she’s using a Windows for the first time and doesn’t mind it.

The technology isn’t the only thing that’s changed at the Augusta Daily Gazette. While working at the newspaper for over forty years, Rhonda’s held several different titles — she’s gone from advertising to circulation to legals. With each new job, she’s had to learn new processes. “After being on advertising, I moved to composition,” she reflects. “We used to use all sorts of tools — razor blades, waxers, paper, scissors. Every single grocery ad had to be put together piece-by-piece. Every tiny little 6pt type had to be placed just so, like on a 6-ounce can of peas. It was like playing paper dolls or sewing. That’s how I hired people to help me — it was all about whether or not they were crafty.”

Seven years ago, in 2013, Butler County merged two papers — the Augusta Daily Gazette and the El Dorado Times. A few years later, the Butler County papers were bought by a new owner — CherryRoad Media, one of the fastest growing media enterprise companies in the country. Under the new ownership, Rhonda became responsible for handling all the public notices for the papers — after all, she was one of the only legal notaries the county had. In this new role, Rhonda was asked to pick up extra work, which filled far more than 40 hours a week. But Rhonda’s always been one to step up, and accept the work that comes from making changes. Still, taking on the full legals responsibility for the papers wasn’t easy. “I already had several different positions with my company,” she describes, “and my workload was really full.”

Earlier this year, Rhonda started using Column’s public notice software to automate the entire legals process for Butler County Times-Gazette. Rhonda hadn’t heard of Column until CherryRoad began introducing it to some of the papers they owned. “At first, I was nervous about using it,” Rhonda says. “It was new and I wasn’t sure I’d take to it, but it didn’t take me any time at all to learn. Once I used it to process one notice, it was easy.” Rhonda describes how Column streamlines many of the manual processes that go into publishing public notices. Column saves her a lot of time. “And we get a really large volume of legals on a daily basis,” she adds. “Before Column, I was doing all the communication with the different entities that placed public notices — the lawyers, townships, counties, cities. I had to input all of the notices into a really old system by hand. Now, Column takes care of all of that. It makes things go really smoothly.”

“With Column, the extra work I picked up to handle all the legals keeps getting easier — the software has probably cut my time in half, at least.”

Rhonda doesn’t have to handhold her customers to help them learn Column. As soon as she shows them how to do it once, they pick it up right away. “Sometimes I encounter customers who aren’t as thrilled as I am about learning a new system. But once they try Column for the first time, they’re always good with it. It’s all about taking that initial step. I’ve found that after everyone uses it once, there aren’t any more problems. Honestly, I just love it.”

With Column, Rhonda’s daily work life has gotten undoubtedly easier. Still, she understands her customers’ initial hesitancy — changing up an old system can be unnerving, especially when so much is already shifting in the news industry every day. “It’s real different here than how it used to be,” she reflects, gesturing around her quiet office. “There used to be at least 35 people here. Now it’s just me and my coworker Lori. But we’re okay. We’re working through it. We have some good writers who are trying to energize our readers, and bring the local focus back to us, the small papers.”

Change is inevitable in the news industry, and Column is another tool that’s helped Rhonda navigate the next wave of it in her own life and career. “Using a software like Column lets me streamline everything,” Rhonda says. “It helps all of us do our best work for the paper.”

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