10 Questions with Council Grove Republican Owner, Contributor, and Active Community Member, Jan Sciacca
We celebrate a lot at the Council Grove Area Trade & Tourism Association. Grand openings, one-year anniversaries, ten-year anniversaries, launches, retirements, back-to-school, back-to-work. (Does anyone in Council Grove ever nap?) Seriously, there's a lot.
But, today, we are celebrating something extraordinary -- one hundred fifty years of the Council Grove Republican!
The team that devotes itself to bringing each edition to life is part of an American legacy. Because of them, we have paperboys, reporters, classified ads, and our very own newspaper that keeps communication alive across generations.
As a fan of reading anything, not on a computer screen, I am thankful for the Council Grove Republican.
As a hobby writer, I envy our reporters' jobs and talent.
As a reader, the Council Grove Republican helps me feel in tune with the community.
As a marketer, I appreciate what this traditional means of advertising can do for our local businesses.
And as a community member with a weird, public-facing job, I know the important place this paper has in our community, and I am grateful to Jan and the Council Grove Republican team for keeping it going.
Ink-smeared fingertips and a hot cup of black coffee make for one of those mornings where you feel like you have it all together. Newspaper is just different than "keeping up on Facebook."
I use social media. A lot. But, Facebook is simply an un-curated gossip column with some cats tossed in. Sure, it's neat to see my aunt's neighbor's chicken that can play the piano, but newspapers hold power. They give us a voice and bring local stories to life. Our children feel important and valued in the community when they are featured. Our local paper brings us together, and, sometimes, it tears us apart. Just as it should.
So today, let's dive into a little Q&A session with Council Grove Republican owner Jan Sciacca. I learned a lot from this, and I hope you do too . . .
1. Where are you originally from?
"I was born and raised in Council Grove. I identify with the Class of 1973 but left school early to attend Kansas State. I spent 45 years in Colorado before returning to Council Grove in 2016."
2. Before publishing, what was your career experience?
“I have spent my adult life in a myriad of roles, from being a co-owner of a high-end audio/video/satellite business for 25 years to working as an Involvement Director and Administrative Assistant in a non-denominational church that had a congregation the size of
Council Grove, working as a funeral associate for 13 years in a mortuary that served 400 families a year (I literally grew up in my father's Kendall Funeral Chapel in Council Grove), and have been in advertising sales for ten years, both in Colorado and Kansas.”
3. What inspired you to take the plunge into publishing and owning your very own historic newspaper?
"I was retirement age when I learned that the previous owner of the Council Grove Republican, who was not a local owner, was going to sell the paper to one of two individuals. Both would have been out-of-town owners. One would have converted the newspaper to a weekly one, and the other prospective owner would have probably done the same and merged the jobs into his existing newspaper roles out of town, thus closing the Main Street presence of the Republican. I worked for the owner for four years and knew he bought and sold papers quickly. The townspeople had no idea their newspaper was about to change negatively in an irreversible way. Someone had to do something! So, I bought it."
4. What was your biggest career blunder, and how did it make you a better businesswoman?
"Although the fate of the Republican was up for grabs, I sometimes question whether I did the right thing. My fellow classmates are retiring and serving in the community. I could be as well if I had kept a simpler life. But then, a fellow newspaper owner in Colorado reminded me that my time spent in the newspaper business there prepared me for such a time as this. That's how God works."
5. What are your favorite Council Grove pastimes?
"I have a passion for wanting to make a difference. I am currently President of the Bowers Center Committee, whose goal is to restore/preserve the historic building while there is still time to do so. I am an active member of Life Church, having been the church treasurer since 2018. I am also active in various committees that support historic preservation. And, I love to watch the Braves compete!"
6. Describe some of your professional accomplishments at the Republican.
"There is always a need for reliable and timely community news. I told the Republican staff that if we were to survive and not go the way the other area papers had gone (Emporia, Manhattan, Junction City, and Clay Center have all gone weekly), we had to change our ways to be relevant and be different. They accepted the challenge. In 15 months, our subscribers and ad revenue have increased, which is almost unheard of in our industry. We are honored that in addition to being the official newspaper of Council Grove and Morris County, that Cottonwood Falls has designated the Republican as its official newspaper for 2022. For the first time in many years, the Council Grove Republican entered the annual competition of the Kansas Press Association and won awards in a third of our submissions. We placed first in best overall redesign of a newspaper (all divisions) and first in best magazine for "Tour Historic Council Grove." In 2022, through winning a grant from the Inland Foundation, we found and hired reporter AJ Dome. (Kudos to Zoey Bond, who introduced AJ to Jan via a story about the KS177 road closure.) Dome has enhanced the Republican's Flint Hills' reporting."
7. How do you feel about the future of small-town newspapers like ours?
"There is a hunger to know more about our communities. Council Grove is unique! The Council Grove Republican's status as a daily paper is unique. In this competitive world, being unique and different from others is good. The newspapers I admire the most are the ones that provide features and news you can't get anywhere else. I believe this model is followed when newspaper ownership is local and not a large corporate entity."
8. What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs in any phase of life?
"Life is short. To follow your passion and make a difference, seek wise counsel or mentors, and pray about your decision and wait for an answer. I have various industry mentors who have encouraged and advised me."
9. What advice do you have for future newspaper writers?
"Look for your niche and embrace your individuality.”
10. Who is your favorite paperboy?
"We'll be listing at least 140 newspaper carriers in this week's paper. Of course, they are all my favorites, but I am partial to a former carrier and my brother, Larry Kendall.”
Happy Anniversary, Council Grove Republican!
Here’s to 150 more!