Happy Birthday to Us: One Year of Lowell’s First Look

Maryalene LaPonsie, Tina Dickerman, and Amanda Schrauben

One year ago today, Lowell’s First Look was born. We’d been around in a different form for a few months prior, but November 14, 2016 is when we took the leap. It’s when we decided that Lowell residents shouldn’t have to wait a whole week to get their news or hope that the Grand Rapids stations would pick up on local happenings.

Since then, we’ve published 380 articles, been visited by 36,770 users (at least since we set up analytics in January 2017) and picked up 1,664 Facebook followers along the way. Our reach on Facebook goes way beyond that though, and 10,257 people have seen our social media posts in the past week.

We’ve learned a little about our community too. You are proud of our little town. You are all about the unsung heroes that make us unique. And you are really into some good liquid refreshment. Consider that the following are our five most read stories in the past year:

Coming Soon…Big Boiler Brewing
Is RollAway Going Away?
For the Love of Brew
Stories of Perseverance: Anna Walz
A Sweet Opening

As we contemplate where we are today, it helps to consider where we’ve been and where we hope to go in the future. Above all, we are supremely aware that none of this would be possible without the support of YOU and our other loyal readers.

Lowell’s First Look: Our Origin Story

Our first official post as Lowell’s First Look briefly touched on what led us to launch the site. Let’s unpack that a little further.

If you think back to the summer before last – that would be the summer of ’16 – the city was embroiled in a messy situation. The city manager had been fired. The mayor had been recalled. Neighbors were calling one another names. It was an ugly time in our city’s history.

In the midst of all this, someone had an idea. What if we start trying to shift the focus back to the positive? What if we seek out the really cool things happening in the city that are being overshadowed by the political mess?

Originally, we envisioned writing a biweekly column in the local paper. When that didn’t work out, we decided to put our work online. You might remember the old Lowell Leads the Way website (long gone now – RIP). That’s where we started what we thought might be a temporary project to shine a light in the darkness of that time. We wrote about a new meadery in the area, the start of the school year and local non-profits among other things.

And a funny thing happened to our temporary, experimental project. It seemed to find wings and soar. The response was overwhelmingly positive and so we created Lowell’s First Look as an LLC to provide a weekly, online news source for the community. We first thought we’d post maybe once a week, but there is so much good happening in this community that we’ve ended up posting six days a week instead.

Your Trusted News Source

After one year, we feel as though we have established ourselves in the community. We hope we have gained your trust.

Some may say that online news sources can publish what they want without repercussions. However, in truth, there is no difference between legitimate online and print publications when it comes to the integrity of their work. There is no third party agency reading print publication stories to ensure their accuracy. For both online and print publications, it is up to the editorial staff to ensure information is complete and correct.

You may have also heard that online news sources have hidden agendas. We’ll tell you there is nothing hidden about Lowell’s First Look’s agenda. Our goal is to be the most complete source of Lowell news possible. After you check your email and log-in to Facebook, we hope you’ll pop over to Lowell’s First Look to see the story of the day. That’s our hope. That’s our agenda.

As people who live, work and raise children in Lowell, we want to be community cheerleaders. We want to celebrate all the great things about our area, and we won’t be shy about using the occasional superlative or exclamation point. However, that love for Lowell isn’t blind devotion. We are committed to providing both sides to every story and when we think things could be done better, we’ll be sure to say so. The key is that we want our criticism to be constructive instead of cutting.

What’s Next for Lowell’s First Look

So where to next? Well, we’ll continue to provide you great daily news stories on the people, politics and possibilities to be found in Lowell.

Thanks to the generous support of Hooper Printing, we were able to launch a monthly print version our most popular stories. We’d love to expand that in the future.

We’d also love to expand our coverage. We haven’t been able to follow sports closely and sometimes there are multiple events happening in an evening so we can’t cover them all.

To do that, we’d need to hire additional writers and that’s where having an online news source gets tricky. Making money when you give your content away for free is tough. While we are happy to work for free, that arrangement probably won’t work long for other writers.

We’re looking into different options – a holiday gift guide and business specials pages for instance – to bring in advertising revenue. We’ve also set up a button on our website where people can make a donation via PayPal.

Looking into the next year, we’d love to have your monetary support (of course!), but we’re really thrilled simply to know that you’re reading every day. If you have a story idea or feedback to share, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]

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