New flags portend plan for further improvements
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If you think something has changed about the appearance of today's South County Spotlight, you are correct.

After several months of planning, the Spotlight is sporting some new design elements that we hope improve the look of the paper and serve as a foundation for more improvements to come.

Perhaps the most obvious change is on Page 1, which features our new flag and logo - a pair of spotlights that build upon the brand that our predecessors have developed over the past 46 years. We like to think our name, Spotlight, is a good metaphor for our mission of bringing light to truth each and every week, which is what we try to do with every edition.

The flag (the artwork at the top of the page) also makes use of a contemporary font that will find its way into other applications throughout the paper, from the Opinion page to the Living section to Sports … and beyond.

While these particular changes are largely cosmetic, that doesn't mean they are trivial. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Branding goes to the heart of who we are and what we're about.

This is similar in scope and impact to the launch of our Web site, which represented a huge step forward when it was rolled out for the first time four months ago. The response to that endeavor surpassed everybody's expectations and clearly has become Columbia County's leading source of online news and advertising. According to Web metrics compiled by our webmaster, is now receiving an average of more than 135,000 'hits' a week, including more than 28,000 page views and 6,800 user sessions. A lot of that traffic is people looking at Spotlight news articles, feature stories and opinion pieces, but a lot of it is also coming from reader comments. We underestimated Columbia County's penchant for public discourse … in a big way. This week, for example, Spotlight readers posted 45 comments in response to the story about the off-duty police officer cleared in the shooting of a gun-wielding man who showed up at his doorstep back in October. A story about the St. Helens City Council's decision to give themselves pay raises was equally robust - everybody in town, it seems, wanted to weigh in on that one.

That's part of the fun in working in the news business in media that is constantly evolving, sometimes at what seems like light speed.

For all of this, we depend upon a talented staff, management that continually invests in plant and equipment and a client base that continues to vote with their pocketbooks. We are fortunate in all of these respects, and are one of only a handful of newspapers in the state whose circulation is increasing.

Today's enhancements are just another step along the path of continual improvements that we intend to roll out in the future. Other projects will include a partnership with the South County Chamber of Commerce, which has given us the opportunity to partner with them on publication of their annual membership directory. This is just the beginning of several other planned forays into custom publishing and marketing. We also want to forge partnerships with other organizations and individuals to further expand what has already become an amazing community forum. Columbia County deserves that because a wide-open and robust discussion leads to better decisions, greater involvement and a higher quality of life. And, after all, isn't that what we all really want in the end?

The outpouring of support for the Spotlight and its mission have been overwhelming, and as publisher I hope we continue to earn your trust. Will we make mistakes? No doubt about it. Will we agonize over them? Absolutely, but the greater sin would be to fall into apathy and indifference, neither of which is in our plans for the future.

We look forward to your feedback and hope you continue to call 'em like you see 'em.

And thanks for helping us keep community journalism alive in this incredible little corner of the world.

Rick Swart is publisher of the South County Spotlight. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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