Walt Potter Jr.

Potter listening tour of community newspapers begins this month

Walter B. Potter Jr. — donor of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Walter B. Potter Fund for Innovation in Local Journalism — will be visiting community newspapers in Missouri this month and next as part of what’s known informally as The Potter Listening Tour.

The tour name is inspired by trips politicians sometimes take to visit potential voters, ostensibly to learn their stories and how to help them. Potter’s tour, however, will be strictly nonpolitical and focused on the needs of community newspapers.

Helping small newspapers is in his DNA: the Potter Fund is an endowment named after Potter’s father, a longtime community newspaper publisher. Indeed, Potter’s whole family has been involved with newspapers starting with his grandfather and down through Potter himself, who ran a small newspaper in Virginia.

The Potter Fund was established in 2010. Chief among its activities so far are a series of conferences that connect new technology experts from the Missouri School of Journalism’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and elsewhere with small-town newspaper people.

Potter and RJI Executive Director Randy Picht believe the next step in making Potter Fund efforts more effective and focused will be to conduct newspaper site visits. Potter will meet with publishers, editors, ad salespeople and others to learn what they want from future Potter Conferences. He’ll also see first hand what these newspapers are doing with new technology, and convey information about RJI projects that might help them thrive.

Potter, 65, will also be learning about new technology during the tour, using social media to describe his visits. His Twitter handle is @PotterConf and he’ll post to the Potter Conferences Facebook page. Join and follow the conversation at #PotterListen.

The tour begins today, April 6, at the Houston (Mo.) Herald.

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