For the 6th edition of Why Report Local, we chat with Mike Caywood, the Arizona Group Publisher for News Media Corp. He handles newspapers in Globe, including Arizona Silver Belt, Copper Country News, and Apache Moccasin, which covers Globe and San Carlos. He also oversees the Lake Powell Chronicle, which covers Page.
by Tracy Townsend
What is the community of Globe like? What’s it like to live there, and why do you love living in a smaller community like this? The Globe-Miami area is very blue-collar with mining companies galore. There are five of them now – Resolution Copper is the largest – and it is the town’s biggest industry. There are a lot of hard-working people who have been working in the mines for a long time. I’ve found that it’s a very friendly environment here. It’s almost like family. I like the fact that you get to know people; you get to watch your kids grow up; you get to see people leave and then come back. I like it here because it’s down-home, it’s almost Midwestern. And the fun part is we have two towns connected, so we do things together, but yet, they’re bitter rivals when it comes to the high schools.
Do you feel like there are a lot of amenities in the Globe area like a hospital, a variety of doctors, grocery stores and arts and entertainment? It’s all within the Miami-Globe area. The arts and entertainment are amazing for a town this size. They’re always doing shows and street fairs. And some people probably haven’t left Globe for a long time because we have great restaurants. We have everything a community needs. We have great post offices, and we have an award-winning hospital – Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center. Within this town of 15,000 people, we have enough things that it’s like a city within a town. Plus, we’re an hour to an hour and a half from the Valley, and about an hour and 45 minutes to Tucson. You can go boating, skiing or hiking all within an hour-and-a-half drive.
Tell us about your newspaper. The Arizona Silver Belt started in 1878. It is the oldest newspaper in the state of Arizona. Judge Aaron Hackney was the owner and editor. He was initiated into the Arizona Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1959. Over the years the newspaper has gone back and forth from a weekly to a daily back to a weekly. We have a sister publication that we put out called the Copper Country News. It is a free newspaper and a very popular newspaper. We used to have a separate newspaper called the Apache Moccasin, but 10 years ago we decided to put it inside the Silver Belt. So, on the back page of the Silver Belt is where we put all our news from the San Carlos Indian Reservation.
What’s the makeup of your editorial staff? My assistant editor handles all the city stuff here in Globe. I have a part-time reporter who handles all the city council and business stuff in Globe and Miami, and then I have a sports reporter who covers, Globe, Miami and San Carlos.
What’s it like to work as a reporter at your newspaper? One of the things that I try to do as a publisher is to allow everybody to take ownership of the position they have and treat it like it’s their own. I’m not going to baby them, but I can give them the tools to make themselves better. I give a lot of freedom when it comes to what the reporters want to write about. They are very good at knowing what to write about. They already have things lined up three weeks down the road to meet somebody, or there’s an event going on that they will cover. It’s the same thing at the Page newspaper. I have one editor, and he and I have one reporter. We usually get together once a week to talk about what’s going on that week. This is a hard business. Our salespeople work hard, the editorial staff works hard. I do think that I have the best staff.
For younger reporters, what kind of experience can they get working for you? I like to think that our environment creates a better reporter because we have an engaging community. A young reporter is going to get to write more stories about different types of people. They can enhance their skill set at a smaller newspaper.
How long do reporters typically stay at your newspaper? In my experience with editors and new reporters is that they always want to be the little fish in the big sea, instead of the big fish in our little sea here. They have aspirations, and this is a stepping stone for them. That usually means they stay about a year and a half. Once we lose somebody, it’s hard to hire somebody as good as the person who just left.
Do you think smaller newspapers offer better growth opportunities? That’s exactly what happened to my editor. She was a reporter and did that for a few years, and now she’s the editor. I think the ability to get that title is a lot easier at a small paper than it is at a big paper.
What career advice would you give the next generation of journalists? As a journalist, always read other journalists. Learn how to improve your writing every day. Always keep your mind open. Don’t get caught in a rut of writing the same thing over and over again. Expand your repertoire. You can start by working at a small newspaper, and then you can grow, and someday if you want to work for The New York Times, go for it.