An introduction from us, to you

Special column

Valley Sentinel Staff

 We wanted to take this opportunity, in our inaugural issue, to conversationally introduce Valley Sentinel to its readers and to our community. It’s been a busy couple of months, and an even busier couple of weeks. The sheer amount of outpouring support and interest from our community has been both welcome and overwhelming.

 So here we are—we’re Valley Sentinel, a weekly news publication publishing on Wednesdays in Spring Green, covering Arena, Lone Rock, Plain, Spring Green and the surrounding areas.

Our goal is to focus on and highlight the many positive things happening in the area, while bringing people together to ensure in these uncertain times that we do whatever we can to keep the culture of our community alive and continue to celebrate those positive endeavors. 

To be clear, we don’t seek to supplant, especially in times like these, we are seeking to collaborate and engage our community together in whatever ways we can. 

We must be viewed as misguided by some to start a publication in the middle of an on-going pandemic, but we can’t think of a better time to build and foster community and to come together to sustain and support the things that make our area special.

Who we are

We’re a group of passionate people sharing their time in the name of community – current and former publication editors in chief, managing editors, farmers, attorneys, local and county government journalists and community organizers. Collectively, we have nearly two decades of experience in the Lower Wisconsin River Valley area, we believe in its potential, and quite simply — we care more.

We are a group of people that have, for the most part, worked in and visited the River Valley and have grown to truly care about the area. We are very passionate about the amazing culture and identity it has. We chose to invest in the community because we believe in rural journalism and the positive force it can be, we believe in this community and the arts, creativity, business, agriculture and recreation that sustains it. That is our impetus. We want to be even a small fragment of something bigger in a time that risks tearing us all apart. 

As we settle in and start publishing, our team will be growing and changing to best meet the needs of our community and will always be looking to add contributors, while seeking creative collaborations to better serve our community.

Members of our team have experienced firsthand how an old newsroom can take its readers for granted and stagnate and how large corporate media can drain the creativity from passionate people. We’ve seen how corporate media tries to get blood from a turnip instead of engaging the community, while increasingly abdicating a publication’s role: to assist in being part of the lifeblood that fosters the creativity of a community and helps it connect and thrive. We refuse to believe that’s how things have to be. 

We volunteer our time simply because we have been inspired by the River Valley and want to serve and connect with the area in the only way a group of passionate journalists knows how—keeping people up-to-date! We’re not backed by any special interest group, have no large corporate media parent, we just sort of fell together organically and were helped along by COVID, our changing world and a deep appreciation for the area.

What we stand for

Our community deserves a news source that truly cares — Cares to reach you where you want to be reached. Cares to stay ahead of the curve to inform our community. Cares to cover important topics that other journalists won’t touch. Cares to cover the decisions of our local governments and to hold them accountable. Cares to celebrate both our rural Driftless identity and the arts & culture that makes our community so extraordinary.

We believe in a model that strives to reach people wherever and however they like their news. We reject the failing, walled-garden subscription model of large, corporate newspapers. We believe that anyone who wants the news, should get the news. 

Our collective experiences have helped inform us, we believe, on what’s working and what’s not in community journalism, so we’re going to do things a bit differently—

We’re inspired by Eau Claire’s Volume One, Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express and Madison’s Isthmus and Cap Times publications – mixed with the best parts of an engaging weekly community newspaper publication. 

We’d like to be at the forefront of creating a “new normal” in community journalism. 

First off, let’s buck the trend of the closing brick and mortar, we believe unequivocally that a community publication needs to be present in the community. 

So we’re looking for an office in Spring Green. Please let us know if you have a space to rent or if you can host/donate a temporary working space, we are just starting out after all.

Check out our Community Discussions section. Things happen quickly, and a traditional letter to the editor format may not always lend itself to the constructive dialogue we should be having to find understanding and solutions. We want to help foster discussions that contribute to the betterment of our community. 

We’re offering a subscription fund. We understand that everyone’s financial situation is different, but we believe that everyone that wants the news should be able to receive the news. We’re offering a subscription fund that is provided by donations and a percentage of advertising sales to make sure that everyone that wants to be an actual subscriber is able to be.

We believe it is the duty of any forward-thinking and dynamic community newspaper to assist in keeping its community informed and, to that end, to ensure that the news is available to all that seek it.

Businesses, you’re important to us and to our community, neither could thrive without your support, and you thrive through engagement with our community. Want Valley Sentinel on racks at your business? Let us know!

To our individual readers, are you passionate about arts & culture? About local government and public service? About sports? About outdoors & recreation? We would love to engage with contributors that want to share their passion with the community! Please reach out and let’s figure out best how to share that. 

We have so many ideas to engage and celebrate our community and to bring disparate groups together in constructive ways that benefit the greater good. But we’ll need your help, so stay tuned! 

As we start publishing, we will look very similar to a weekly community newspaper, but with the goal of being dynamic in how we cover things and how we engage readers based on the feedback we receive from our community. We truly believe in making the news accessible to all that seek it, in whatever ways they seek it. Our design and feel may change over time, we’ll be relying on the community to tell us what they like to see and what they don’t, what they like reported on and what they don’t.

There’s a saying we live by in our newsroom, “first make it work, then make it work better.” Please bear with us as we create something from scratch, as we grow and change, please don’t compare us harshly as we first make it work. Because when we do make it work, we won’t rest on our laurels, we won’t stagnate, we’ll work hard to find that next best thing for our community to make it work better. We’ll surely make mistakes as we go, but we’ll learn from them if given the chance.

We would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to express our appreciation to all those that have reached out and given us a warm welcome and well wishes, especially to all those that we’ve met and spoken with in the past couple weeks that have encouraged us and shared their excitement with us. Thank you. Valley Sentinel will only thrive if the community collaboratively engages with us and itself thrives.

As we said: In times like these, our community needs to come together.
So, let’s build community together.