By Andy Dudzik

A little more than 12 years ago, I applied for an advertising sales job at the Reporter. As it happens, I botched the interview and someone else was hired instead.


Nonetheless, when another position opened up, I reapplied, was hired and dove into the challenge of selling newspaper advertising in a competitive media environment. I soon learned the key to the Reporter is understanding that the "product" is not just advertising space—it is the newspaper itself and, most importantly, its readers.

Connecting local advertisers with Reporter readers continues to fuel the financial engine of the Reporter. As a free weekly newspaper, 99 percent of the Reporter's revenue comes from advertising.

But as the Reporter moves into the second half of its fourth decade, this traditional economic model for print media faces increasing challenges from online digital media. Add the current economic downturn to the mix, and it's not surprising I am asked the following question often lately (usually accompanied by a look of concern): "So, how's the Reporter doing these days?"

The honest answer is that after years of consistent steady growth in advertising revenue, 2009 began as the first down year in the last eight. Accordingly, we have tightened and cut our expenses. The good news is the paper remains in the black and, as we celebrate our 35th anniversary, we are well positioned to not just weather the current economic storm, but also to emerge stronger.

It is heartening to remember that when Richard McCord and Laurel Knowles founded the Reporter in 1974, they, too, faced daunting economic challenges. Against all odds, the Reporter did more than endure—it broke important stories, offered incisive analysis and was recognized nationally for its journalism.

When Hope Aldrich purchased the paper in 1988, she maintained this tradition of journalistic excellence and also oversaw important steps in the paper's transformation, such as the shift to digital publishing and our contemporary circulation system.

For the last 10-plus years, the Reporter has been owned by Mark Zusman and Richard Meeker, and has continued to evolve by expanding its distribution (our readership and circulation level is on par with the New Mexican's and more than three times the Journal North's), creating its web presence

at and, most importantly, continuing to produce the award-winning journalism that defines the Reporter (we recently learned SFR leads in award nominations for its size division in the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies journalism competition).

SFR's role, of course, has expanded beyond watchdog and advocate of progressive change. The paper also dedicates significant space to covering the city's arts and culture scene, both in the weekly edition and with our special guides to the city. The paper's growth in its journalism on all fronts reflects the investments we have made over the last several years, and it will always be our highest priority.

The Reporter also, over the last decade, has invested significant resources in supporting the community. Today we donate approximately 10 percent of our ad pages to sponsor events that benefit local nonprofits and other deserving causes. We have worked in conjunction with key organizations on the front lines in Santa Fe, such as the Food Depot and Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families, and called upon our readers, time and again, to donate time, money and resources to these and other important groups. Always, you have come through.

Because the Reporter is a small business, we understand, first-hand, the challenges faced by the city's small businesses (and it is why we are partnering with the Santa Fe Alliance to ensure our city's hardworking entrepreneurs survive and thrive). This week's paper, like all of our weekly editions and special magazines, was produced by approximately two dozen people, all of whom deserve acknowledgement.

SFR's editorial department has hosted many talented writers and artists over the years, and 2009 is no exception. I remain in awe of the extra hours and dedication brought to the labor of love that is the Reporter by Editor Julia Goldberg, Art Director Larry Kohr, Web Editor Zane Fischer, editors and writers Dave Maass, Corey Pein, Rani Molla, Charlotte Jusinski and our freelancers.

Just as I did 12 years ago, our display and classified sales representatives dedicate their days (and sometimes their nights) to working with local business owners. Sales reps Doña Hatch, Jill Carmichael, Dan Koffman, Marissa Montez-Salazar, Classified Sales Director Anna Maggiore and Camille Pappé are selling this paper's advertising in a very different era than I did—thanks to the Internet—but the fundamental value of SFR hasn't changed, and they do a tremendous job paying our salaries (that's how free weeklies work!).

Perhaps one day the Reporter will only exist in digital form, but for now we're much more similar to the product we were in the '70s. Producing this paper is a big job performed by a small group of talented people: Production Manager Ariana Marchello and graphic designers Talaya White and Jolene Yazzie.

Last, but not least, are the folks who ensure the Reporter is on the streets bright and early every Wednesday morning: Circulation Manager Andy Bramble and his team of drivers keep busy each week making sure the Reporter is available in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos. As a result of their efforts—and the paper's popularity—our rate of distribution is the best it's been in this paper's history.

SFR is a different paper than it was 35 years ago—it's actually vastly different than it was 12 years ago, when I came on board.

But some things will never change. We will always dedicate resources to the community, we will always provide hard-hitting and substantive coverage (even when it costs us advertisers), and we will always value our readers as the true raison d'être of this paper.

And we will definitely continue to throw great parties—like this week's Summer Blast 35th Anniversary Party. Please come celebrate with us—we wouldn't be here without you.