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Editorial 646

Missy Layfield - Editor

By Islanders, For Islanders

Our three-year anniversary with the Island Sand Paper passed quietly last month. When we assumed stewardship of this community newspaper in May 2010, we told readers what they could expect from us, knowing that what we said would be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. We knew we'd have to prove that we meant what we said, that we would indeed walk the talk.

Three years ago, we fielded a lot of questions about how we planned to handle this treasured island resource called the Sand Paper. We learned early on that this was not just a business or just a newspaper. This was Islanders' community forum, a reflection of Islanders' interests, opinions and concerns.

When we began, we promised unbiased information. We feel strongly that it's not our job to tell Beach residents what to think. If we have an opinion, it will appear on the editorial page, not in story selection or how we write stories. We made the decision not to endorse candidates, rejecting the power of endorsement in favor of trusting our readers to make up their own minds on who should represent them. Our job is to provide readers with enough information to make the choice themselves. Some candidates utilized the opportunities we offered – some did not.

We promised responsibility and respect. Our responsibility is to report community news, to seek out the stories that Islanders want to read; to respect not only our readers but also the subjects of our stories.

We promised to support local business. We believe in the power of a community to support its businesses. We want to contribute to the success of the entire business community of Fort Myers Beach, not just our advertisers, but the whole island. We know that when one business succeeds, we all benefit. Sure we have a beautiful beach, but without the restaurants, bars and shops, how many people would spend their precious vacation time here? We want to support efforts by Islanders and businesses to work cooperatively. We've been supportive of several recent efforts to bring businesses and Islanders together, whether it's the weekend Times Square Sunset Parties or the Chamber’s new ‘Roxie’ information center or the Friends of the Arts Film Festival. These are all excellent examples of Islanders working together to achieve a common goal that benefits the entire Island. We truly see our role as newspaper owners as one of support and facilitation of community betterment.

This is a free newspaper. We are totally supported by our advertisers. We regularly ask readers to support our advertisers because without them, this paper would not exist. We also ask readers to let businesses know what paper they read for Island news and encourage businesses to advertise in the Sand Paper. Those ads support your favorite Sand Paper content, whether it's the Funnies, the letters, the news articles or the Back Page Girl.

We want all Islanders to have a say in public decisions, whether they are Town, County, Fire Board or Library Board. We cover more public beach meetings than any other media, without slant or prejudice; you read what is said and done at the meeting as if you were there yourself. We're proud of that coverage; we hope our readers utilize it to stay connected to their elected officials. We provide an editorial each week. Not all weekly newspapers do. We see the editorial page as our one chance each week to share our opinions on a newsworthy topic. We don't do election endorsements, but we do weigh in on major topics of local interest. Our focus is not on national or international news, but on the subjects that Islanders are talking about. Sometimes we agree with local government, sometimes we don't.

Likewise with advertisers. Sometimes we agree with our advertisers, sometimes we don't. We don't pull punches and we don't skew our opinion so that it reflects what will make the most people happy.

Sometimes that results in government officials or advertisers or readers being unhappy with us.

Would you want it any other way? Do you want your local newspaper's content "for sale" to the highest bidder, largest advertiser, most powerful political leader or loudest critic? We don't think so.

The Sand Paper is a community forum. We welcome the input of our readers. What stories do you want to see? What issues are important to you? What can we do better? Let us know. Send us your stories, letters and photos. This is your paper.

We hope that in the last three years we've reassured any skeptical Islanders that we are committed to Fort Myers Beach and its people. We hope that we're meeting your expectations in our stewardship of this treasured Island resource.

We are Islanders.

We are both humbled and proud to be a part of the one newspaper that is truly "By Islanders, For Islanders."

Bob & Missy Layfield