A little more than three years ago I started my own business, Gazette Media Services LLC, after eight years of running the Las Vegas Optic for its corporate owner. I wanted to carve out my own niche, and one of the first and most important things I accomplished was to create the Community News Exchange, or CNEx, a news-sharing service primarily for smaller weeklies around New Mexico.

I launched it on May 6, 2013, with 11 newspapers I had recruited from around New Mexico.

Through CNEx, I’ve learned a lot about New Mexico, but I’ve also gained insight into the newspapers themselves. Now there are 14 newspapers and a radio station “subscribing” to CNEx. It’s not as big as I had imagined in ’13, but I still enjoy serving as its editor, and it generates some spare change in my pocket, so I can’t complain.

My business did OK for a while, in part because of a Knight Foundation grant dispersed through the New Mexico Community Foundation as seed money to support CNEx for a year. That support helped me grow the service, but setbacks came from outside market forces. Over these years I’ve watched in frustration as the Raton Range, Ruidoso Free Press and The Sangre de Cristo Chronicle and its satellite newspaper, the Raton Comet, all folded.

Newspapering is a tough business these days.

But there are other small-town newspapers that are still running strong. The Rio Grande Sun in Española, a fire-breathing newspaper if there ever was one, sells out just about every week, while The Taos News regularly wins national awards as one of the best weeklies out there. These are newspapers that defy the trends, in large part because of the people who run them.

Then there’s the dogged determination of people who keep their hometown papers relevant. Nick Seibel snatched the Silver City Daily Press from impending death and poured his time, money and talents into its revival, and M.E. Sprengelmeyer left a successful career as a reporter covering national and international issues to buy The Communicator and move to Santa Rosa, turning that newspaper into one of the best weeklies in the state.

It has been a privilege to get to know people like pressman-turned-journalist-turned-publisher Donald Jaramillo of the Cibola Beacon, and Brenda Hood, who almost singlehandedly covers Lordsburg with her Hidalgo County Herald.

I have a great respect for people like John Graham, who do what’s necessary—from writing copy to running the press—to get his family’s Lovington Leader out three times a week, and Scot Stinnett, who manages to produce the De Baca County News and the Clovis Livestock Market News from his humble desktop in Fort Sumner. They’re old-school newspapermen, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.

Through CNEx, I’ve also gotten to know Terry Martin, who still manages to get the Union County Leader out like clockwork every week, and Leota Harriman, who gives her all to the success of her weekly, The Independent out of Edgewood. And Peter Aguilar, who produces the weekly Lincoln County News with help from his daughter and others in an extended family of sorts; they lost their longtime and beloved editor, Ruth Hammond, who died in 2014, but they keep churning out a newspaper every week.

Two “unconventional” CNEx subscriber/contributors came into the mix when I managed to sign up the New Mexico Daily Lobo, the University of New Mexico’s student-run newspaper, and one of Santa Fe’s radio stations, KSFR, one of the few radio stations out there that still generates original news reports. Their contributions to CNEx have been invaluable.

CNEx has opened other doors for me as well. It helped me get a job at The Taos News last year and it’s a part of why I’m in Roswell now. The Daily Record is one of only two dailies that participate in the service, so when I needed to find a more fulfilling job, a phone call was all it took.

I may have created a valuable service for weeklies around the state, but I also expanded my own horizons. I love newspaper work and consider it an honor to work with the men and women who pour their hearts and souls into their newspaper and the communities that depend on them. Maybe I’ve helped in my own small way.

Newspapers, I like to say, aren’t dying, they’re adjusting. CNEx has contributed to those adjustments. Needless to say, it has been rewarding for me too—and not just for the spare change.

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He may be reached at tmcdonald@gazettemediaservices.com or tmcdonald@rdrnews.com.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.