Last print edition? Interest mounts in preserving Wrightsville Beach’s local news source, but future remains uncertain

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Is this the last edition of the Lumina News?

As the owner and publisher for the past three years, the answer to that question is very clear: I don’t know. This very well could be the last time the Lumina News is printed. But there could very well be a print edition next week. Or perhaps it could resume its weekly print schedule in two weeks.

Last week, I published an article that detailed some of the issues facing the publication. It was essentially a plea for help. At the same time, I was gauging whether there was an interest from the Wrightsville Beach community in retaining its local newspaper.

Fortunately, there was a robust response, from local businesses to concerned citizens to sympathetic well wishers. It even attracted interest from a few other local media outlets, with the Lumina News being the next local newspaper to succumb to the economic realities of the changing media market.

But while I had several promising discussions, alas, no definitive solution has presented itself. Nonetheless, there are reasons to be encouraged, as several parties have demonstrated interest in finding such a solution.

The interest spanned a diverse range of entities and individuals, each with their own interest in providing support, but the common recognition from each was the value of the newspaper’s authority to publish legal advertisements in New Hanover County.

So the simple fact is, I need more time to work with community stakeholders and potential business partners to see if we can turn this interest into a workable solution. And if the Lumina News ends publication now, while interest is still percolating, but before all options are explored, it would be tragically premature. Especially for the community of Wrightsville Beach.

One of the unanswered questions that I’m currently researching is whether the Lumina News can take a publishing hiatus of one week, ideally on Jan. 16, and resume publication on Jan. 23. This seems to conform with my reading of the North Carolina statutes on the subject of publishing legal advertising, but I’m in consultation with an attorney for the North Carolina Press Association on the subject. If the Lumina News does publish on Jan. 16, or even the following week, it doesn’t mean a solution has been found. It would likely be a measure to buy time and extend the search for some form of business partner or mechanism of community support.

In all likelihood, I will learn sometime early next week whether I need to publish next Thursday in order to maintain the legal publication status. If I do publish, it will likely be devoid of any local content, mainly filled with press releases and other local items I can pull together from the internet. Simply put, it will be a placeholder, meant to bridge the gap.

However, this issue isn’t much different, with the demands of trying to save the newspaper overwhelming any ability to create the content needed to grow the paper. It’s the same issue that has plagued my efforts over much of this year, as the content has degraded while I seek solutions for the underlying labor woes.

This degradation was probably most noticeable during the recent election of a new mayor of Wrightsville Beach. While I was able to produce one article on the differences between the two candidates, I did so during a period where I was struggling to find a way to bring sustainability to the paper, and was unable to adequately bring further coverage to the paper.

The Wrightsville Beach Planning Board met this Tuesday, Jan. 7 and discussed an issue with lot frontage that could affect as many as 40 homes on the island. Again, an understaffed Lumina News was not there to cover it.

While some may think there is no news in Wrightsville Beach, there are many issues that deserve coverage. For instance, there were enough traces of PFAS chemicals — those of the same family of Gen X —  in the town’s water supply for it to join a lawsuit against DuPont and Chemours. What is the status of that lawsuit? And more importantly, what is the status of the town’s drinking water? And somewhat related, how is the project to upgrade the town’s water system progressing?

Remember the planned drawbridge replacement into Wrightsville Beach? Where does that process stand?

These are just a few of several issues on the Lumina News radar. These are questions that could go unanswered, or be answered too late, if the Lumina News isn’t there to report on these matters.

Some will question whether the paper’s reliance on legal ads to remain a weekly print publication is warranted. It’s a fair question. It could perhaps be a bi-weekly or even monthly print publication. Or it could be only a website. While these are viable options, it would still require some type of financial support, from advertisers or some other source. I personally believe a weekly print publication with legal advertisements offers a measure of legitimacy and accountability that can’t be duplicated by an online-only publication.

Of the outreach I’ve received over the past week, many have wondered how they can help, and more specifically, what exactly does the Lumina News need to survive. Any additional revenues from advertising would be needed to fund additional labor, specifically administrative work and advertising sales and management.

To help answer these questions, I’ve put together a document that gives a snapshot of some of the basic information behind the business, including its assets, a look at its profit and losses over the past three years, and some of its labor needs.

I’m willing to share this information with anyone qualified to help preserve this local institution. I’ll be taking more meetings and gathering more vital information over the next couple of weeks.

I am grateful for the help and outreach I’ve received so far. I want to particularly thank Neal Briggi, a local resident who has graciously offered to help in any way he can.

If you would like more information about what is needed or how you can help, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 910-719-9180 or terrylane@luminanews.com.

Copyright 2020 Lumina News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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