BUSINESS

The Northside Sun still shines despite industry challenges

Ryan Ward
Oxford Stories
rcward@go.olemiss.edu

In an ever-changing industry, one community newspaper is still shining a light on important Mississippi issues.

Since their first volume was printed on Nov. 30, 1967, The Northside Sun newspaper has delivered news to Northeast Jackson, South Madison County, Flowood, and the Reservoir area.

The Emmerich family founded the newspaper in 1967, adding to newspapers they already owned throughout dozens of Mississippi towns and in Louisiana and Arkansas.

IMG_7218 First volume of The Northside Sun. Printed Nov. 30, 1967. Photo by Ryan Ward.

“My grandfather started in the business in 1925 when he bought the weekly McComb Enterprise,” said Wyatt Emmerich, owner and publisher. “My father followed in his footsteps and bought the Greenwood Commonwealth in 1973. In the ’80s and ’90s, he bought more newspapers. My father died in 1995, and I took over the business.”

With the growing trend of people getting their news online, local newspapers across the United States have struggled to keep readers. However, The Northside Sun has remained in business for 51 years.

Wyatt Emmerich attributes the Northside Sun’s “hard work, stability, and knowledge of our market” as the reason it has survived amid the decline of newspapers.

Emmerich also writes a weekly editorial column in which he discusses issues that “affect as many people as possible, such as taxes, crime, public policy, and family life.”

IMG_7208 Owner and publisher of The Northside Sun, Wyatt Emmerich. Photo by Ryan Ward.

Editors deserve a lion’s share of the credit for keeping the business going. Jimmye Sweat is the chief editor. She has worked at the newspaper for more than 30 years and has been interested in newspapers since her college days at the University of Mississippi.

“While my husband, Andy, was in law school, I worked at The Oxford Eagle,” Sweat said. “When I was in undergraduate school, I worked at The Daily Mississippian.”

Sweat believes The Northside Sun has remained successful because their material is community focused. She decides what stories to publish, and the decision-making process has its challenges.

“Since we are a defined community newspaper, I focus on our circulation area,” she said. “I try to include all of the community news – schools, churches, clubs, sports and anything that affects our readers.

“I also like to include copy that is exclusive to the Sun. I hope that when the readers pick up the Sun, they aren’t reading stories or seeing photos that they have seen in other publications.”

Every office needs someone to provide humor and lightheartedness. At The Northside Sun, that person is Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren. Warren spent a year and a half working for The Rankin Ledger, but has now been working for The Northside Sun for more than 11 years.

Warren said his favorite stories are “ones that he can sink his teeth into.” He enjoys writing stories that require a good bit of research and work. He also likes stories that can help shape public dialogue.

“Late last year, I wrote a series of stories about how location was crippling the Jackson Zoo,” he said. “Earlier this year, the zoo board voted to move. This year, I wrote a story about how some 30,000 books were lost at the Tisdale Library because of black mold issues. The story not only highlighted the problem, but the fact that virtually nobody in the city or with the Jackson-Hinds Library System took responsibility for the problem.”

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In his position, Warren must often ask difficult questions. He said the most challenging stories are when individuals are faced with tragedy. For example, a parent losing a child or a family losing their house to a fire.

“Those are the toughest,” he said. “As a reporter, you have to cover the news, but sometimes I ask myself if I’d want a stranger publicizing a tragedy affecting me.”

Like any other business, a newspaper must be financially stable to remain in business. For The Northside Sun, the responsibility of generating revenue from advertising falls on Advertising Director Jennifer Stribling and her advertising team.

Ad representative Misti Sims studied journalism at the University of Mississippi. The paper’s business manager, Dani Poe, also attended UM.

Many ads in The Northside Sun come from local businesses with some inserts and ads from national clients. She develops advertising plans that are affordable and beneficial to businesses by sitting down with business owners and determining their needs, goals and struggles.

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“The Northside Sun’s marketing team takes that information and tailors a strategy that fits the individual customer’s budget while reaching the community with their message,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to sit down with someone face to face and really talk about what is working for their business and what isn’t. Customer service is a huge piece of the packages we offer.”

For a local newspaper, attracting national advertisers might seem difficult. However, Stribling feels The Northside Sun reaches a market that appeals to national retailers.

“National advertisers do business with us based on several factors,” she said, “the number of household subscribers we mail to and the zip codes those subscribers are located in.”

Parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends in The Northside Sun’s coverage area look forward to seeing pictures from the school and social sections each week. They also like columns.

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“The most popular columns are Jeff North’s columns about hunting and outdoors; sports columnist Rick Cleveland’s articles covering many areas of Mississippi sports; and publisher Wyatt Emmerich’s weekly column as well,” Sweat said.

The Nov. 29, 2018, edition of The Northside Sun contained three sections with 48 total pages. They have a circulation of 9,097 and a readership of 30,020.

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