The Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference is funded by the Walter B. Potter Fund for Innovation in Local Journalism. Walter B. Potter Sr. was a longtime community newspaper publisher who was an early proponent of new technologies like offset printing.
He grew up working on his father’s paper in Farmville, Virginia. After service in World War II, for which he was awarded the bronze star, Potter graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Washington and Lee University with a degree in journalism.
He began his newspaper publishing career by purchasing two weekly papers in Culpeper, Virginia, eventually merging them into the daily Star-Exponent. Ultimately, Potter owned and published a group of four weeklies and two daily newspapers. He also served as president of the Virginia Press Association and of the National Newspaper Association. He testified on behalf of NNA before Congress in support of the Freedom of Information Act, which was passed the year he was president.
Potter was active in politics, business development and the military, serving as the civilian aide to the Secretary of the U.S. Army. Potter’s wife, Alice Kay, became an award winning reporter on the Star-Exponent. The couple had two sons, Walter Jr. and Robert, each of whom became third-generation Potter family newspaper publishers.
Potter died in 1994 at the age of 78.
In October 2011, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) brought together dozens of publishers and editors for “Community Newspapers: Tomorrow has arrived.” In a jam-packed two days, participants covered mobile, paid content, digital lessons from the Joplin, Missouri, tornado, making money in the digital age, community newspapers and the Web, social media and engagement and much more. The response has been heartwarming and humbling.
You all have really been the talk down here in our newsroom. We’ve had about four meetings about all that I brought back from the conference and we are making some strategic changes based off of what I learned there.
Jason Collington, Web editor, Tulsa World
We expected to come away with ideas to boost our Web news presence.... [and] were surprised by the broad-ranging, useful advice we received on boosting revenue ... The conference gave us the confidence boost we needed to move forward....
The information we received changed our mindset and is being put to use in our workplace every day....
Peggy Bess, editor, and Peggy Scott, news editor, Leader Publications, Festus, Missouri
The future of the weekly newspaper is truly in our hands and if we focus on the possibilities that are real, I have confidence in our success. You have given we newspaper owners/publishers more options....
Kay Wilson, publisher-owner, Nodaway News Leader, Maryville, Missouri
I can’t thank you enough for providing me (and so many others) with the most informative and inspiring community newspaper seminar I’ve ever attended. The presentations were amazing — such cutting edge info about technology and trends — and yet so practical and useful “on the ground.”
Sue Ann Jones, Ozark County Times
... This event was able to cram into two short days what would have taken us months (or longer) to find and digest. I felt like a sponge trying to soak up everything I could while the opportunity was there.
... I left the conference with a better vision of ... how we can lay the groundwork to be better prepared for whatever might be ahead....
Kathy Fairchild, editor and co-publisher, Lawrence County Record, Mt. Vernon, Missouri
The Missouri Press Association and veteran community newspaperman Walt Potter Jr. sponsored the event in honor of his father, Walt Potter Sr. Walt Jr. was so excited about the opportunities to share information among smaller community news operations that he continues to support and advise RJI on developing additional opportunities for community news operations.
To that end, RJI surveyed community newspaper leaders in several states to identify gaps in information that, if filled, would most help those papers as our industry changes. RJI developed three programs to share at state and national press association conventions:
Stacking digital dimes into digital dollars. It is true; offline dollars translate into digital dimes, but you don’t have to settle for a loss. Learn how you can start stacking up digital dimes from your online content by implementing a variety of advertising tactics that will increase your online revenue.
What’s the point of social media? The answer? It depends. Are you trying to grow your audience? Increase loyalty to your brand? Find story ideas? Your strategies will differ with each answer. Don’t think of social media platforms as an additional responsibility. Think of them as a way for you to accomplish your audience goals, and for your audience to seamlessly interact with your content.
Paid content comes of age. A few short years ago, only a handful of newspapers charged for access to online content. Now, half the dailies in the country have launched pay models, and weeklies are following suit. What are the emerging best practices? What do publishers need to know about pricing and establishing a paid model? Most important, what’s the best strategy to fit your newspaper and your audience? This session is intended to give participants answers to these questions, or the tools necessary to identify the answers.
These programs have been shared in Missouri, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia.
... I want to thank you for your extraordinary efforts to put together the Potter conference at the Virginia Press Association.... I believe that our Virginia conference’s success was largely due to your hard work ... Thanks again for a job well done.
Ginger Stanley, executive director, Virginia Press Association
We just finished a really packed winter convention ... and wanted you to know about some of the speakers.
Mike Jenner, Elizabeth Conner and Stephanie Padgett from the Reynolds Journalism Institute at Missouri were great. In fact, one of them will be our highest rated speaker, I’m certain.
David Thompson, executive director, Kentucky Press Association