Building future starts with some bold changes

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"Building Your Future" was the theme of the joint annual meeting of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the Inland Press Association in Colorado this past week.

Community newspapers across our great land are constantly retooling, re-engineering and re-thinking the way we use our powerful local brands to engage with our audiences in print and online.

Because we're competing for your attention against an unlimited amount of news, information, entertainment and general clutter, it's more important than ever for us to make your local news and information both interesting and engaging.

As you can see from our 1A story today, we're taking another step in that direction by bringing Vince Johnson to Sumter as the first non-family publisher of our newspaper in its 123-year history.

See the story for all the details you need right now, and know that Vince is committed to taking The Sumter Item to the next level.

How did this happen, you ask?

It has to do with one of the lessons I'm constantly learning as I get older and those doggone troublesome children we spent so much time and effort raising develop their own paths and strong ideas.

Four years ago my son Hugh, who is in charge of developing digital initiatives across our company, met Vince at a newspaper conference in Atlanta. He said to me then, "If we ever get a chance to hire someone like Vince, we should do it. He gets it."

The "it" he was referring to involves blending our proven track record of trusted community print journalism with all of the modern tools available such as video, enhanced websites, email marketing, data management, a wider variety of print products and a host of other creative ways to help us - and our advertisers - reach readers of all ages and demographics in print and online.

Sounds easy enough, right?

I love technology and do fairly well navigating the new world, but our children are digital natives. It's a fact.

As one presenter at our conference concluded, when it comes to advancing technology improvements in our companies, "it's time to turn the keys over to the kids."

We're looking forward to bringing many new initiatives to the Sumter community and to all of the communities our newspapers serve.

At the heart of it all, however, is that trusted printed newspaper. I consider both newspapers and books to be luxury items that I relish every day, and I'll never give them up. I will say, however, that I've come to expect all of the other new digital stuff as part of my daily life. I'm sure many of you feel the same, and we look forward to engaging you in new and exciting ways. Hold on for the ride. The kids are driving.

Graham Osteen is Editor-At-Large of The Sumter Item. He can be reached at graham@theitem.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamOsteen, or visit www.grahamosteen.com.