This issue, “10 Questions” checked in with Kelly Kahler Rayl, business manager for the Yuma Pioneer in the city and county of the same name in northeastern Colorado, bordering Nebraska and Kansas.
The area is small in population but rich in agricultural history, both farming and ranching. Husband Tony Rayl is the publisher and editor of the Pioneer. They live within the city limits of Yuma, with a view of wheat fields a block away. They have six children (three daughters and a son at home, one son at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, and their oldest son in Denver, a project manager for JHL Constructors), one grandson, two dogs (Paisley, a Corgi/Shih Tzu, and Miya, a Pit/Boxer) and cat Patches, "our female Garfield."
You're from Yuma, went to Yuma High School, Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder. What did you study, and how did you come back to the area?
I went to Yuma High School, and our children are the fifth generation to live in Yuma County. I studied English, Literature and Media at CU Colorado Springs, University of Phoenix (online) and Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo.
While I was trying to go to school in Colorado Springs, I worked full-time at the Amateur Basketball Office in the Olympic Training Center. I did a little bit of everything in their office, including licensing FIBA (International Basketball Federation) officials. I came home from Colorado Springs because I ran out of money and my boyfriend was a jerk.
I landed a job at the public library in Yuma as the Children's Services director (storyteller). Eventually, I moved into the head librarian position. I finally managed to get my B.A. at the University of Phoenix where my credits could all be counted up. I tried for a while to get a Media Specialist degree … kids started coming.
When did you start at the newspaper, and what all do you do now?
I began working at the Yuma Pioneer in 2008 as the business manager. There are four people employed at the newspaper currently. I'm business manager, advertising, reporter, production and circulation. The only thing I don't do is run the press.
Tony Rayl is publisher, editor, reporter, pressman and production. Jim Chouinard is publisher, plant manager, pressman, production. Tonya Graton is compositor and production. We all contribute to the layout and design of the newspaper, but the bulk of the design is by Tony and Jim.
The newspaper is owned by Yuma Pioneer Inc. Who is involved in that company, and when did it form?
There have been four owners of the business since 1886. The company was formed in 1889. We purchased the paper from the Roger Chance family in 2003. Tony owns the majority of stock, plus Jim and I.
Yuma County formed in 1889 (when 13 new Colorado counties were created), after cattle trails were established around 1870, the railroad came through in 1882, and homesteading picked up steam around 1885. When the Yuma Pioneer flag touts it has come out "Every Thursday Since 1886," it shows it was really in the thick of it. What presses or hot-type supplies do you still have (there's a past mention on Facebook about maybe getting one of the old presses working again)?
We own and operate our own King Press, and upgraded the plate production to a digital computer to plate system in 2013. The press has been our weakest area of production because it's old. Still runs beautifully with a lot of elbow grease and problem-solving.
We can still get parts, have them made at our local machine shop, or come up with a better idea to keep the "Green Monster" running. Weak, but by far one of the best assets of our business. Worth the work.
As business manager, you've been the main contact for Colorado Press Association and SYNC2 Media on the ad side for some time. What are the challenges and or advantages of selling advertising in a close-knit community journalism market like yours?
Being persistent even when you feel like you are getting nowhere is a challenge. As far as small and close-knit go, yes, it's very traditional. The same businesses over and over are asked to contribute to projects and nonprofit organizations. It's grassroots, and we stay actively involved in the community in many areas.
How do you think web journalism and social media are shaping the newspaper industry, specifically as it pertains to smaller markets such as yours?
Wow! That's a big question we have all been trying to answer for a while. Access to information is incredible! The web can reach a great number of people. Being the spot on the web that people look at depends on many different things. The news, your speed, a reliable ISP. Remaining active in all areas is a challenge. Our print subscription list has stayed consistent. Maybe that's a small-town thing.
You offer digital subscriptions all over the world. Do many growing up in the Yuma area stay with you once they're out in the world?
Most of our digital subscribers grew up in the area or have family ties. I believe the person that lives the farthest away is in New Zealand. We have print subscribers in New York. Many of the people that live far away have moved to the digital subscription because the USPS mail takes too long.
Yuma is about 3,500 population, in a county of about 10,000. You're surrounded by other small cities and towns, many with their own newspapers: Sterling, Haxtun & Fleming, Holyoke, Wray, Akron, Otis. Is there rivalry or camaraderie among you? Do you ever help each other out on news coverage or anything else?
Yes, we do reach out to others for coverage and try to help them out also. As far as rivalry, of course we want to stay competitive. I feel the newspaper in each community is important to support.
Newspapers are the most consistent and accurate source of news and history for any geographic location. That might be the librarian in me talking, but even working in the industry I still believe that it's true and an important role.
You have a poll question on your website, such as "Why is there so little interest in being on the city council and voting for city council? Or "Should Apple 'play ball' with the FBI in regards to the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone?" How much interest do you generate from that, and do you do follow-up reporting on the results if it's a hot topic?
Not a whole lot of activity there, but if there is, you bet we follow up. Need to listen any way we can, opinion polls, comments on social media, Letters to the Editor, Joe Blow down the street. Always listen.
Neat desk or not, and what’s hanging on the walls of your office?
Not neat. Always seem to have several projects going on at once and I hate to file. We have many paintings by local artists. Many talented artists live here. I also have quite a few watercolor paintings and sculptures that were done by our children. Old pictures of Yuma. Thank-you plaques from various nonprofit organizations.