The Oak Lawn Village Board is considering publishing a monthly newspaper, with Mayor Sandra Bury and many trustees saying traditional media and Internet blogs cannot be depended on to keep residents informed about what is happening in the village.
At the invitation of Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), John Fanning, owner of Crestwood-based Fanning Communications, gave a presentation at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday about “strategic communication services” in which he outlined the advantages of producing a monthly publication that would be mailed to every residence and business in the village.
Fanning suggested starting with a 20-page publication, modeled after one he has been publishing for the village of Crestwood for several years. He maintained that in the Internet age, with the “unrestricted dissemination of information” available online, has led to a lot of misinformation and deliberate “misinformation” on blogs and other online outlets.
He said everything from municipal bond ratings and real estate values can be affected by wrong information, and publications such as his would counter that.
In addition to providing information coming directly from the village administration about local plans and projects, Fanning said the free publication would also highlight local school news, including honor rolls, sports achievements and other “positive news.”
Fanning said that monthly printing and mailing costs for a 20-page paper would cost about $4,500, but the goal is to have advertising revenue cover those costs, and provide a profit.
When Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) asked how long it would take to become profitable, Fanning predicted that with a mix of 60 percent news and 40 percent advertising, the publication would pay for itself and even turn a profit for the village within the first few months of getting off the ground.
Fanning proposed that 80 percent of any advertising revenue generated by the publication would go to the village, with 20 percent going to his company.
Trustee Mike Carberry (6th) cautioned that while the publication may eventually turn out to be a profitable venture for the village, the board would have to determine how much the village could afford to pay while it was getting started.
“We also have to decide who is going to take ownership of what gets published,” said Carberry.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) suggested talking to officials from the Oak Lawn Library and the Park District, which already print publications, to see if their efforts could be combined, thereby saving money for everyone.
In addition to asking which village account the money would come from, since the budget has been passed already, Trustee Robert Streit (3rd) questioned the need for a publication, pointing out that there were reporters from at least four publications at the meeting.
Bury stressed that the new village publication would not be competing with existing newspapers and news outlets. It would have no political content, and instead of covering breaking news, she said the publication is intended to be a vehicle for the administration to keep residents informed about the goings-on in the village.
She said that while there already is a “Village Matters” blog, that is only available to people with Internet access who sign up for it through the Everbridge application.
The mayor said the new publication would be an improvement on the old village newsletter, which Village Manager Larry Deetjen said was ended due to costs that amounted to as much as $100,000 annually in printing and manpower.
“I think it would be good for the village and good for business development,” said Trustee Bud Stalker (5th).
“If Crestwood can do it, I am totally confident that Oak Lawn can make it profitable, with all our larger business district and car dealerships,” said Vorderer.
As a first step, the board agreed to have village staff meet with Fanning to discuss details and get answers to the many questions raised at the meeting, beginning with how much Crestwood is profiting from its publication.