April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Annual report: Readership from our first year at HSJ Online

On Friday April 8th, the community, the Heritage of Hope Media Division and the staff here at HSJ Online held a small celebration at the Larry Simpson Building to look back at our first year and to thank the important contributors who have made all of this happen. As content coordinator, I was asked to put together a few numbers illustrating our readership and the support we have had from the Hope community.

But first, I went off on a bit of a tangent.

I was trying to figure out when exactly I first met Larry Simpson. As most Hope residents probably know, Larry was the long-time owner/editor/staff writer who kept the Hope Star-Journal going. Larry passed away in September 2014, on the last day of Hope Heritage Days and his death brought the end of the print version of the Hope Star-Journal.

But I first sort-of met Larry in January of that year, through Facebook. He and I had both been moving around in Bartholomew County journalism circles for several years, but we had never met before. I knew who he was and he knew who I was and that was that.

However, in January 2014, I had just left the other newspaper in Bartholomew County, was newly unemployed and Larry reached out to me. We chatted on Facebook, and he suggested that he might have some work for me at the Hope Star-Journal to fill in the gap between my former job and wherever I ended up. As Larry was sort of known for, he was putting together some deals and some plans and he was determined to pull me into the midst of what he was trying to put together.

Time passed and I luckily found a full-time, day job at White River Broadcasting, where I am the news director. But Larry was a big fan of our stations, a regular guest on the AM Columbus morning show and considered himself somewhat of a correspondent on Hope news. Even with my new full-time job, Larry was pretty sure he wanted my help in Hope, so in April of 2014, he and I finally sat down in person at a breakfast meeting on a Saturday.

That Saturday turned out to be this very weekend, exactly two years ago. Standing in the Larry Simpson Building on Friday night, talking about Larry's legacy with that beautiful painting of Larry hanging on the wall, almost two years to the day from when I first met Larry, was a powerful feeling for me.

At that breakfast meeting, Larry laid out to me his plans to have me help him out with the journalism in Hope, while he concentrated on the bigger picture things that needed done in the community. We sort of agreed to keep in touch and see which of the various irons Larry had in the various fires would heat up first.

Over the next few months, Larry threw me a few freelance assignments and eventually brought me onboard as a part-time staff writer in September 2014. Which sadly meant that I only got to know Larry for a few weeks before he passed away.

But I don't think I am exaggerating to say that when it comes to community journalism, Larry and I were kindred spirits. He shared his feeling that it was vitally important for people to know what is going on in their corner of the world -- what their local government is doing, what their friends and neighbors are up to, and what events are coming up that they might want to attend. We agreed that journalism is the most powerful tool for keeping people involved and engaged in their community.

Of all the legacies that Larry left in Hope, I will never be the community leader that he was, and I will never have the vision he had on what the community should become. But I CAN do my part to keep the journalism going here. And I want to thank all of you for making it possible for me to work to continue the small-town journalism that Larry championed.

HSJ Online is truly a community effort. Without your kind donations of money, resources, stories and photos for our website, there wouldn't be an HSJ Online. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you have created here and for letting me be a part of it.

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