Inside celebrates 25 years of local coverage
By Cecily Hastings
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Inside Sacramento. At a time when print publishing has been decimated, my husband Jim and I feel grateful to have survived and thrived.
Today, a new publication like Inside would be called a “micro” business. In 1996, we divided the tasks based on the experiences and success of our previous careers. My career was in interior design and project management. My strengths were writing, graphic design, sales, marketing and community involvement. Jim handled accounting, payroll, printing, delivery, invoicing and business details. He had been an executive for IBM and a small business manager.
What made Inside unique was our motivation. Neither of us had publishing experience.
Ours was a very different focus.
When we moved from the Bay Area to East Sacramento in 1989, we became active in our community. We formed two local associations—one for the neighborhood and one for small businesses. With neighbors, we tackled the degradation of city parks, local traffic problems and inappropriate development. We worked with small business owners to strengthen our neighborhood business community and encourage people to patronize local shops close to home.
I created a neighborhood newsletter, which was not easy for someone whose only college English class resulted in a “C” grade. I asked folks to review my work and help me improve.
Just a few years earlier, our business startup would have been infinitely more costly and difficult. It probably would not have happened. The advent of the personal computer and desktop publishing software meant our initial investment was minimal. We used the design and business features to manage our company. This was when legacy publishers were investing millions of dollars in computer systems.
In 1996, we started with one monthly edition called Inside East Sacramento. Two years later we added Inside The City/Land Park (later renamed Inside Land Park/Grid). In 2001, we added Inside Arden, and in 2014, Inside Pocket arrived. In 25 years, we have produced more than 1,000 unique print editions focusing 100 percent on local news!
Today we are by far the largest circulation print publication in Sacramento with more than 80,000 copies distributed each month. Our free “every door” direct-mail distribution to 20 diverse neighborhoods is unmatched. No paid subscriptions are needed, unless you want Inside mailed beyond our distribution communities.
We have become the “go to” publication for civic leaders who want to reach Sacramento’s most aware and engaged residents, making Inside the most influential news source in town.
We’ve always been a home-based business, long before COVID-19. Our staff has worked remote since 2000. We didn’t plan it that way. But when our ad coordinator had a baby, she researched the positives of working from home. As a result, seven children have been born and raised among three of our employees. Our own son was 4 when we started Inside. We know the value of a family-friendly business.
My original editorial plan was to provide readers the opportunity to learn more about their community and neighborhood. Back then, The Sacramento Union recently folded and The Sacramento Bee was the only game in town for journalism. The Bee largely ignored our neighborhood.
By 1996, with six years of living in East Sacramento, I was able to formulate plans to cover the local beat. We wanted stories on neighborhood issues, civic history, homes and gardens, and interesting neighbors. Of equal importance was showcasing small businesses and local civic institutions, including schools and places of worship. We expanded and covered the food scene, volunteerism, plus the arts and design. (My interest in the arts goes back to when I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan.)
Given our unprecedented editorial focus, it seemed appropriate to look beyond traditional journalists. Up to this point, journalists seemed trained to be somewhat detached from the communities they covered, as opposed to being part of them. I sought out people with expertise on local issues.
Knowing we had inexperienced writers—myself included—I hired Marybeth Bizjak, who brought years of professional experience as our first editor. With her help, our writers improved. Gratefully, she stayed with us for more than 20 years. (The average service of all our team members is more than 10 years.)
In recent years, the editorial team of Cathryn Rakich and Bob Graswich took us to another level. Cathryn retires this month, but will continue to help with writing and editing. Bob has been our MVP, writing a variety of columns each month, editing the work of others and tackling difficult civic issues such as homelessness, thanks to his many years of experience in media and city government.
The most important part of our business is our advertisers. In 1996, every quality publication carried a subscription fee. I wanted Inside to be not only free, but democratically distributed to nearly every home in each neighborhood. Some folks thought I was nuts!
Our local business community was small in numbers, but rich in success and history. Within a year, almost every East Sac business advertised with us. The reasons were simple—we provided a high-quality publication with a local focus, we delivered to all the homes near their businesses, and we did it at an affordable cost to advertisers.
Small businesses tend to draw their customer base from within a 5-mile radius. As we added publications to neighborhoods, our advertising base expanded. Many new businesses and restaurants popped up and needed to reach customers. I’ve happily watched the small business community grow and find success along with us.
The real estate industry has been tremendously valuable to bringing our printed news to you each month. In real estate, location is everything. Inside has become the ideal way for Realtors to reach prospects buying and selling homes in Sacramento’s traditional neighborhoods.
After Jim retired a couple years ago, we considered the future of Inside. Jim selected and trained our COO, Daniel Nardinelli, to manage the business. In the last few years, Daniel, who’s only 30, has worked to guide our future. We’ve expanded our digital reach with a new website and made our operation more streamlined and efficient. Daniel has earned our confidence that he and his team can run the business long after we’re gone.
From a personal standpoint, this anniversary has recharged my batteries. Since the pandemic decimated our small business community, I’ve pledged to do all in my power to help our friends recover. To do this, we need readers to support locally owned businesses with every dollar.
May this silver anniversary lead to a much-needed silver lining for all our communities, our neighborhoods and our small businesses as we navigate our way through a bright New Year.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.