How Apple inspires us

Twenty-five years ago, Apple was all but finished as a company.

Microsoft had such domination over the personal computer and operating software market that it was facing U.S. government anti-trust investigations, with the looming threat that the company might be broken into pieces to deal with its monopoly.

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Microsoft put off those charges by sending hundreds of millions of dollars over to Apple to prop up its struggling little competitor.

What happened next is business history. Apple - with the brilliant Steve Jobs back in charge - rolled out a new generation of iMacs, then those little iPods portable music players and then transformed the world with the iPhone.

Yet Apple never strayed from its core mission of offering well-designed, user-friendly products that fostered a fierce, tribal allegiance from customers. When Apple eventually rolls out its first car (they've spent years and billions in development), people will rush to buy it because it has the famous Apple logo on it.

Apple survived and then thrived because it adapted its business model without ever losing sight of its values and its relationship with its customers.

That's our inspiration here at The Citizen as we make the transition from a daily newspaper to an online news portal that also publishes a weekly printed newspaper. In the same way that Apple saw itself for too long as a computer company, we saw ourselves as a daily newspaper.

Although our customers - both our readers and our advertisers - had gone online in droves, we passionately battled for years to serve the dwindling number of residents who just loved their daily newspaper, in the same way Apple was so devoted in the early 1990s to their dwindling base of Macintosh devotees.

We also held off on making the change because of the human cost and the risk. The human cost is saying goodbye to great people and hard workers whose jobs are no longer needed. The risk is striking out in a different direction without knowing if it will work. Jobs and the Apple team relished the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and reward the faith of their supporters.

In the same way, all of us at The Citizen are eager to prove ourselves, both to those who stuck with us as paid subscribers and frequent advertisers, as well as to the segment of the community that wrote us off years ago and will see this most recent change as The Citizen's last gasp.

Our confidence in our future is not tied to pie-in-the-sky hopes (nor unreasonable expectations that we'll be a trillion-dollar company like Apple in 20 years).

Our readers and advertisers - in both words and actions - have told us who and what they want us to be. Readers want us to deliver reliable, breaking local news, as well as insightful features and opinion, online but also publish a printed product with paid advertisements and flyers. Advertisers want to let our readers know about the goods and services they are offering to local residents.

In other words, the demand is there, both on the readership and the advertising side.

This change we're undergoing positions us in the community where those readers and advertisers want us to be.

My goal - both personally and professionally - has been that journalistic calling to report and comment on important community news to local residents. But that's just the selfish part. It's never been about me. I've always seen my role as editor of The Citizen as being the steward of an essential piece of the fabric of this city - a place where residents can find out what's happening but also talk to one another. Columns and letters to the editor written by local residents - both in print and online - is something no other Prince George news outlet offers to anywhere near the degree The Citizen does.

During the last week, one of the most-read articles on our website was the letter Ken James, the president and CEO of West Coast Olefins Ltd., wrote in response to the questions submitted by the Too Close 2 Home Facebook group regarding the proposed petrochemical group. It was probably the longest letter The Citizen has ever published - it filled nearly two broadsheet pages in the print edition - but it provided the depth of information local residents are clearly hungry for.

The weekly newspaper and The Citizen website will be the place for that kind of in-depth reporting and analysis, as well.

You get to decide, however - not just today but every day - whether we're succeeding in our core mission of giving you the news and views you want to read (but not necessarily agree with), when and how you want to read it.

Apple proved itself to be more than just a computer manufacturer and we're excited about the opportunity to prove to you that The Citizen is far more than just a daily newspaper.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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