Profiles of Innovation
Making local news relevant: Community Impact brings the local paper back fromthe dead
Nobody thought John Garrett could possibly succeed. In a new media environment — a revolution in media really — Garrett planned to bring back a dinosaur, a weekly newspaper.
"I was convinced that the average Joe wanted to know what was going on around them. So I left my job at the [Austin] Business Journal and just kind of hit the ground running. Our mission is to make sure everyone knows what's happening in their own backyard."
Community Impact newspaper is now nearly seven years old and Garrett is publishing 12 weekly newspapers in three of Texas largest cities — Austin, Dallas and Houston — with a mailed circulation of over 750,000 households.
"I just knew there was a need there and I had a background that could approach that need in a unique way. And I really sold quality and a commitment to quality and sold the need that was out there. I think every one can relate to the idea that local news matters and local business matters."
He didn't do it alone. Garrett is quick to point to his staff and fellow visionaries helping him achieve success everyday and now his staff, which numbers over 70, includes someone as dedicated to success as he is — Jennifer Garrett, John's wife, is COO of Community Impact.
"She's not only my biggest ally, she's Chief Operating Officer here now, so not only does she have a full time job taking care of our girls but she comes here and helps manage. She serves on our executive team to make sure we are fulfilling our mission. She's very passionate about the business. She's a big part of our success here."
Garrett approaches his job with one eye on the leadership he provides to his company, a leadership based on five principles: Faith, Passion, Quality, Innovation and Integrity. The words are never far from the eyes of staff at Community Impact. His other eye is focused at home. Garrett knows that work has little meaning if there is not a larger goal at stake.
"I have 3 beautiful daughters, work-life balance is really important to me and it's important for my staff to have it as well. I've been really blessed to be able to get home and spend time with the girls and that’s everything to me, my family, my wife, my girls.
"I had a lot of people tell me, ‘that is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.’ You have to have vision and you have to understand what that vision looks like and say 'OK, this is what has to be,' to me that’s key."
Proof of the success of Community Impact newspapers hangs on the walls around the office. Dozens of journalism and sales awards remind Garrett that his peers recognize the work he and his staff are doing.
Yes, at a time when newspapers all around the country are struggling to survive, John Garrett found a magic formula. "I’ve learned in 7 years that the average consumer doesn’t really care about where they get the news first, they just want news that has breadth and depth." It's news Community Impact delivers to the doorstep every week.