Rarely will a media outlet make the news itself, but during the weekly Kiwanis Club meeting on Wednesday, August 15, the local newspaper was the topic of discussion.
The program for the day was given by Terri Leifeste, the interim publisher at the Sweetwater Reporter. Joined by her husband Alvin--who also oversees the local newspaper, the positive changes being made were presented to the civic club.
The Leifestes joined the Sweetwater Reporter on May 10 of this year, in which they also took over the publishing operations of the Big Spring Herald at that time. Additionally, they are the publishers of The Saline Courier, a newspaper in Benton, Arkansas.
Leifeste has been in the newspaper business for 34 years, and has been with Horizon Publications--the parent company of the Sweetwater Reporter, for the past 20 years. While she also supervises the two Texas papers, Leifeste oversees newspapers across the country in Vermont, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Rhode Island and California.
Looking ahead, the plan is for publishers to be hired for both the Sweetwater and Big Spring newspapers, in which they would report to Leifeste regarding newspaper operations.
Since 1881, the Sweetwater Reporter has been--as the front page reads-- "dedicated to proudly delivering local news". Leifeste plans to see that commitment through during her time in Sweetwater and as she oversees the newspaper.
"We want to be the best newspaper we can be," she said.
Her goal for the Sweetwater Reporter is to become involved with the community and meet the local news need. For the Editorial department--which includes stories and sports, changes have been and continue to be made in the planning process to promote local events instead of the high usage of Associated Press (AP) stories.
Leifeste acknowledges and understands that the Sweetwater Reporter will never be the newspapers of Abilene or Dallas, but that the newspaper can in fact be the best source for local news.
In addition, changes have been made in the Advertising department, with an entirely new staff in place led by Rick Nunez, the advertising manager for both Sweetwater and Big Spring. Nunez will be stationed in Sweetwater three times a week in order to meet the advertising needs within the community and surrounding areas.
Leifeste also answered the questions of the Kiwanis Club members at the meeting. With the upcoming football season fast approaching, the goal is for the Sweetwater Reporter to be the best coverage for the four area schools, which in turn would boost subscriptions.
In addition, one of the changes that will take place behind-the-scenes of the Editorial department will be a story budget, which allows the writers to establish when and where their stories will be published.
She also hopes to become involved at all levels within the city and has that desire for the employees of the Sweetwater Reporter as well, such as participation in non-profit organization, clubs and serving as board members, among other local groups.
One of the comments made during the meeting was in regard to the Religion page that is featured every Friday. Kiwanis Club member Chris Stephens, who is also the pastor at Broadway Baptist Church, thanked Leifeste for the opportunity to promote the church and share his devotional through the page.
Leifeste also noted that feedback on the newspaper is welcome in order to know how the newspaper is operating and offering local news. She concluded her presentation by reiterating that as planning continues, good things are going on and that the Sweetwater Reporter is heading in a positive direction.
The local chapter of the Kiwanis club meets every Wednesday at noon at Bee's Lunch Bucket in downtown Sweetwater.