Ten years ago, Kingwood residents Cynthia and Larry Shiflet decided to start a new venture – a community newspaper. The goal was to start a fresh, all-local paper with local news, local columnists and hyper-local coverage of issues, served up with a heart for offering free advertising to nonprofits.
In February 2007, the only locally owned newspaper, The Tribune, was launched and this week celebrates its 10th year.
“We were excited to start the paper and over the last 10 years, we have been privileged to serve the large and growing Lake Houston community. We are now the favorite paper of the community and people tell us again and again how much they love The Tribune,” said Cynthia Calvert Shiflet. The Tribune provides the Lake Houston community of some 200,000-plus with local, state, sports, national and world news.
There were 45,000 copies of the first editions – we did three separate zones, one each for Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita. The front-page splash that day was the Humble ISD Rodeo kick-off, along with local resident Mike Sullivan announcing his intention to run for Houston City Council. Other stories show that things change over the years. One headline read that Administaff was awarding grants to local schools and another that a Kingwood College student had received a large scholarship. Administaff is now Insperity and Kingwood College is now Lone Star College-Kingwood.
Nearly simultaneously, the couple started a second business, Steep Creek Media. Steep Creek, begun at the bequest of the district, had the goal to help Humble ISD overcome a $17-million budget deficit. Steep Creek handled marketing for the district and made more than $1 million.
In 2009, The Lake Houston edition of the Tribune was added. Circulation has increased annually, and today there are 55,000 Tribunes thrown on driveways.
To celebrate the first decade, a new design of the paper’s website, ourtribune.com, was recently launched.
“The reason for our success is simple: hard work and pure determination, along with exceptional employees and cherished advertisers,” said Larry Shiflet. “We have the best customer service. We still answer the phone. We put stories in the paper that people want to read and need to read.”
Expansion continues to be in the plans as new communities develop along W. Lake Houston Pkwy. and in Kingwood.
“We will increase circulation this year again,” said Cynthia. “No one even comes close to the number of homes we reach.”
“It’s been well received by the community overwhelmingly,” she said. “The residents in our communities were hungry for news, and they have consumed every edition. We have remained steadfast in our desire to offer our paper for free to nonprofits, events and other needs – to date, there is well more than $1.5 million in free advertising that we’ve given away.
This newspaper also is a highly affordable, effective way for local businesses to reach local customers through advertising.”
Larry added, “As newspapers, our job is to cover our communities. The Tribune has served to fill a rather large gap that heretofore had not been covered.”
While the newspaper industry has been challenged in the last decade, community journalism is thriving.
“Where else can you go to find out everything that is happening right here? There are hodge-podge websites and social media, but The Tribune is the one definitive spot where everyone goes to know what is happening. So many communities and cities have lost their newspapers. Having one is a blessing. We look forward to the next decade serving our community,” Cynthia said.