By Jason Koler & Britt Myers

The fact you are reading this paper is nothing short of a miracle. All across the country, locally owned newspapers are closing their doors, consolidating or being absorbed by large hedge funds designed to cut staff and squeeze operations for maximum profit. 

The internet, 24-hour news and social media have changed the way people access information. Paper is getting harder to source and the skills required to operate a press and bindery are becoming a lost art form. 

There were doubts. 

When the Weekly launched on Sept. 14, 2003, there were multiple papers across the Florida Keys with larger staffs, more resources and bigger offices. 

We started in a converted apartment, had no reserves and worked all hours of the day and night to put a paper on the streets. And even with countless hours of labor and endless nights, there were times the paper wasn’t measuring up to our standard. 

Say yes to the community…the rest will follow. 

Even when we didn’t know that much, we knew enough to say “yes.” If one thing defines the difference between locally owned community news and corporate media, it is the responsibility to not only report on your community, but also to serve and participate with your neighbors. So when people called in need of an article, press release or added exposure for an event, we said yes. Yes to the nonprofits that called and needed additional press and yes to the civil servants, first responders and those who get up and go to work every single day. We said yes to the mom-and-pop businesses that called in vital need of recognition. Yes to the playhouses and art studios and yes to the teachers and our schools. Why? Because that same community said yes to us in return. And that’s an honor and privilege we can never repay. 

 Community first 

When hiring, our primary credential for candidates was to identify those who care about our community. This simple philosophy of “community first” and putting the needs of others before our own was a culture we were founded on and one that we proudly adhere to 20 years later. Today the Keys Weekly is proud to employ over 25 dynamic locals across the Florida Keys. Between our three offices, the Weekly consists of moms, dads, grandmas, conservatives, liberals, moderates, environmentalists, athletes, bookworms, some who love country music and some who loudly blast Kendrick Lamar from their office (not saying any names in Key West). But what they all share is a mission to serve. Our “Best Of” events in Marathon, Key West and Tavernier have raised close to $1 million for local nonprofits and our current Weekly team has either served or currently participates in over 40 civic and nonprofit organizations – from memberships to board positions. Simply put, the Weekly adheres to a “community first” culture – and we hope this remains evident in our approach to journalism. 

Our job is simple – we tell stories

And your story is important – especially to us. 

While we strive to keep a humble perspective on our jobs, whether it be design, journalism, marketing and logistics, we have always maintained a culture that has as much fun as possible, while remaining respectful of the responsibility we have to our readers and our community. So often in this modern age we have lost the pursuit of reading with a purpose to learn, stimulate and grow. We are fed confirmation biases from every mainstream website and news feed that fits a “side” or nationalized narrative. And the loss of community newspapers has only perpetuated this concerning trend. This is why serving our community is so important to the men and women who span our three offices here in the Keys. We truly believe that empathy and compromise can still exist when a community puts the needs of others first. And we hope that is what our publications continue to resonate each and every week.

We are active. We are engaged and we are grateful

Grateful for the front row seats to all the cool events and contentious meetings. We are grateful you answer our phone calls because your story is important. Grateful for the relationships that have survived hurricanes, an oil spill, a recession, a pandemic and a rash of other moments that tested our resolve. 

We had to adapt 

Every lasting business in America must adapt and this has certainly manifested in the media. As other media sources come and go, we keep listening, moving, adapting and growing. Today our website boasts over half a million visitors each and every month, while our daily E-Blast is read by over 25,000 organic users. Our sister company, Overseas Media Group, provides websites, social media and digital support. For 20 years, not one week has passed without someone proclaiming to us that “print is dead.” Maybe it is, but not in the Florida Keys. There is no secret recipe to successful newspapers in a digital world. Yes, you have to adapt. But more important are the people who make up the offices. Our success is a direct result of a culture embraced and amplified by our talented and beloved staff. Our team’s dedication to their craft as well as their commitment to the community is what we are most proud of. Those humble beginnings in the converted apartment taught us well. We know where we came from – and never take for granted where we are now.

We are thankful 

So our message to you is one of gratitude. We thank you for supporting local media, our staff and our families. And moreover, we implore you to continue to read. Leon Gutterman, the late editor of Wisdom magazine, once said, “Reading is easy and thinking is hard, but the one is useless without the other.” So keep reading the Keys Weekly, whether you agree with every page or not, and continue to play your part in a thriving community that thinks, empathizes and miraculously exists in spite of the differences and challenges we all face every day. We are proud to serve this community, alongside each of you, for the past 20 years. And we look forward to the next 20 years of local media here in the Florida Keys. 

Jason Koler, born in Florida and raised in Ohio, is the “better looking and way smarter” Keys Weekly publisher. When not chasing his children or rubbing his wife’s feet, he enjoys folding laundry and performing experimental live publishing.