Small-Town Parade  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   December 2000

Small-Town Parade   

By Jennifer Dorroh
Jennifer Dorroh (jdorroh@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's managing editor.     


On the first Sunday in June, Atlanta Journal-Constitution readers opened their paper to a Parade cover story about Rob Lowe. But that week in rural Georgia, Dahlonega Nugget readers found a father and daughter smiling from their porch swing on the cover of American Profile, an insert now running in more than 450 small-town newspapers.

The Nashville-based American Profile, which bills itself as the magazine for "Americans who cherish hometown life," is the first to provide papers with circulations under 30,000 with a full-color insert targeted at their readers. It features "hometown heroes" and "stories that make people feel good," says Executive Editor Peter Fossel.

"I was really looking for something like this," says Richard W. Lamb, editor and publisher of Michigan's Presque Isle County Advance and Onaway Outlook. The insert bulks up his 16- to 20-page weeklies. Readers "like the stories and glitz" of the magazine, though a few have complained that they want the paper to retain a local focus, he says.

Jim McKeown, publisher and editor of South Carolina's Kershaw News-Era, was "delighted" to discover American Profile and has included it in his weekly paper since August. Before American Profile, community publishers had few options for adding broader coverage to their papers. Parade is available only to daily papers, and other features services were "too generic," McKeown says.

American Profile launched Midwest and Southeast inserts in April and a Northeast edition in September. "We listened to the smaller papers and created a magazine with the same sensitivity to the community" that small papers provide, says CEO and Publisher Dan Hammond, a former advertising executive.

The magazine has a total circulation of more than 2.2 million and is projected to turn a profit in the first quarter of 2002. It will expand to West and Central regions early next year.

"People in rural Pennsylvania and people in rural Alabama see themselves differently," says Hammond of his decision to publish regional editions. The October 8 Midwest magazine highlights the town of New Ulm, the "Deutschland" of Minnesota. That week's Southeast edition features a woodcarver from Pearl, Mississippi.

Hammond credits American Profile's good-news philosophy for its popularity with readers. "You won't see stories about teen pregnancy and crack usage," he says. "We will pay tribute to traditional small-town values."

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