Welcome to the Crestview News Bulletin, North Okaloosa County's news source that includes a twice-weekly print edition, daily news offerings on crestviewbulletin.com and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
All of these sources, combined, are second to none in covering North Okaloosa County's community, government, military, public safety, business, sports, education, health, cultural and faith news.
But I always say you have to use the right tool to do the job and, similarly, readers need to determine which source is best for them.
The print edition, which publishes Wednesdays and Saturdays, covers Crestview, Baker, Laurel Hill and surrounding North Okaloosa communities. It costs just $32.76 a year, in-county, and is our most convenient news source. That's because all the news, information and analysis you need is in one edition, and all it takes is turning the page to find what interests you. (No never-ending scrolling and searching. We've provided a clear beginning, middle and end, with an A section for general news and B section for Sports and extras.)
Further, subscribers and single-copy readers can enjoy a number of News Bulletin exclusives not offered on crestviewbulletin.com or other news outlets. (Trust me; I pick some of our best, long-form features to stay as premium options. Offering print exclusives ensures we can continue to bring top-notch content to all readers, whether in print or online.)
Readers notice ongoing quality improvements, and have expressed us much in paid circulation, which is up 7 percent since February 2013.
Our website, on the other hand, offers 100 percent free access to a robust collection of categorized, timely news. It's frequently updated with regional news, commentary, our video line, including the weekly "North End Zone Sports Report" webcast, a Twitter feed and local updates from the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Our news team — including seasoned journalists like Sports Editor Randy Dickson, who has covered Okaloosa County sports for 13 years, and Brian Hughes, who has covered Crestview area general news and cultural developments for seven years — has earned the community's respect and accolades.
Reporter Matthew Brown is always eager to cover Baker and Laurel Hill news —everything from Baker School students' strides to growing north county churches and the LH City Council.
Editorial assistant Renee Bell helps families tell the story of a loved one's life with regular obituaries, and accepts community announcements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I constantly work with the staff and readers to gradually improve our coverage and content.
I've worked in journalism and news for almost nine years, mostly in Alabama and partially for internationally popular websites, but have never accepted that I know it all. This column's regular readers could tell you that From the Editor's Desk has evolved since we created an Opinion page in September 2012, one of numerous additions to better serve our readers.
You can expect a mixture of news, with a goal of always finding the silver lining, if possible. For instance, I wrote about a Crestview family's house fire on Saturday for crestviewbulletin.com. But if you've read about similar incidents, there would have been no point in reading about this one. That would mean less of a chance that we could help the family.
But Jennifer Pierce mentioned how her eldest child, Robert, 11, sprang into action, collecting fire extinguishers from neighboring Crestview apartments in an attempt to save their rental home.
It was a heroic action that would leave readers inspired rather than in poor spirits. And that's why we described Robert's heroism, and treated the fire as a footnote, when previewing the story on Facebook.
We say no to 'no'
What else can you expect in the News Bulletin?
Well, a great deal of transparency; it's not unusual for Randy to write a column about what he was thinking during a game — something, of course, that can't be included in a fair news report — or for me to write about the back story of our articles or why we decided to cover a story.
We usually don't just tell the story; we also tell why it's important. For instance, when View From the Stage, the Crestview community theatre group, decided to present "The Miracle Worker," Brian tracked the significance of the relatively new group's transition from light fare to serious drama, and the chances that required taking.
Oh, and you can also expect as much North Okaloosa news as we can fit in the print edition or on crestviewbulletin.com.
You know, the print edition has space constraints, and we try to print everything submitted to us in some way, shape or form, but that second option is limitless.
"No" is not in our vocabulary. We serve Crestview, Baker, Laurel Hill and surrounding north county communities. If our news team can't cover something in person, we appreciate community helpers such as folks from the Crestview YMCA.
I've always heard that a newspaper is like a bulletin board that anyone can add to.
If it has public interest, we want to know about it, and you probably have a digital camera, so you can help us "pin" things to that bulletin board!
And whether its staff-generated or reader-submitted news, we post most of it on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so tens of thousands of readers can see your announcements.
Instagram, our newest channel, offers news photos that usually don't make the print edition, and fun, behind-the-scenes extras.
And due to our team's ongoing efforts, the print edition and online offerings are not always just relevant and well written, but they also look better than ever. We've worked for the past year on enhancing crestviewbulletin.com, Facebook and Twitter users' experience.
Ditto for advertising solutions.
Often for businesses, the best solution for press or publicity is an advertisement, and Sherrie Stanley, Melissa Tedder and David Dimond, our media sales consultants, can suggest targeted digital solutions that far surpass what you would imagine from a news organization.
That's partly because we are so much more than a news organization.
We don't just cover the communities; we care about them. Our staffers represent numerous organizations, including Sister Cities International, the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce's Professional and Inspired Leaders of Tomorrow and Arts and Culture Committee, Toastmasters International and others.
Knowing what's happening in your community is vital to understanding your surroundings, being alerted to traffic conditions and health concerns, but it also brings the community closer together when you read uplifting, inspiring stories about finding grace under fire.
The story of Jennifer Pierce, which continues from the early web report, concludes with a hopeful ending.
"People need to know that there are good people out there — not everybody's bad," Jennifer said.
We see news about crime all the time.
She knows the importance of bringing good news, too.
So do we — and that's why you should keep reading the Crestview News Bulletin.