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“This is the last issue of the Lake Today newspaper.” It is a very hard thing for me to say out loud.

When the announcement was made in early July, our editorial staff knew there would soon be an end to the Lake Today. However, we still worked like we have for the last nearly eight years.

We planned our weekly story budgets, filling our usual sections with local and state news, event previews, sports, columns, entertainment, outdoors and interactive pieces and contests for our readers. Then it came to preparing for our last issue, this issue, and it hit me.

It is the last time to choose this week’s lead stories on the front page that will encourage residents to read the Lake Today. It is the last time staff reviews, smiles and talks about the varied photo submissions from readers, selecting the ones that will appear in our next issue.

It is the last time Ceil Abbott publishes her popular column. It is the last time Tim Leible shares insight on Lake Area and national sports activities. It is the last time I connect with local community leaders to arrange special columns and articles in the paper.

It is the last time readers open their mailbox or public rack, pick up the Lake Today, and read the words our staff has written about our community.

However, as we complete our “last” duties as part of the Lake Today, I think of all the “firsts” we have had with this weekly community newspaper. From the beginning stages of planning this paper with our parent companies, Central Missouri Newspapers, Inc. and WEHCO Media, our staff was excited to present a full-color newspaper, a first for the Lake Area community.

We were also excited to include elements of a magazine in its initial design and context to give a fresh flair to a community newspaper. Through photo sections, feature articles, original contests and special sections, the Lake Today newspaper embedded itself into the community’s foundation.

The Lake Today staff worked hard to establish relationships with Lake Area schools, eventually providing an opportunity to create a new special section, “Our Lake Today.” This first at Lake of the Ozarks, allowed students to learn the ropes of journalism, delve head first into the industry, and select, write, edit stories they felt important to our readers. “Our Lake Today” provided an education, a platform and a voice to students for more than six years at School of the Osage and three years collectively at Camdenton Schools, with the most recent partnership through Camdenton Middle School’s new Areas of Career Interest (ACI) Journalism class last school year. As a result of this section, the Lake Today won an award from the Missouri State Teachers Association. For helping to create and publish this section, staff thanks Karen Blevins, Osage GATES teacher Karen Blevins, Camdenton Middle School teacher Susan Skinner and former CMS principal Dr. Paula Brown.

Six years ago, the Lake Today sprouted an idea for a contest that encouraged children to expand their imagination and to read and write. The annual “Choose Your Own Doom” Ghost Story Contest was born, allowing two age groups of children to finish the start of an original spooky tale. Local writers helped judge their pieces, selecting winners to have their stories published, receive a slew of prizes from generous advertising sponsors, and, in later years, have their tales performed live on stage during the brilliant Tim Williams’ live, free Castle Vlad Spooktacular show in partnership with the Camden County Library District.

The Lake Today staff also implemented special sections and series perhaps seen before in media but with its own twist. Such products included top sports and photo moments of the year; sections highlighting local, small businesses; columns sharing insight from local chambers of commerce and tourism organizations; historical recognition sections and first-time program guides to popular local events, such as the Battle of Monday’s Hollow Triennial Civil War Reenactment and Hot Summer Nights.

These and other “firsts” did not happen solely from the Lake Today staff’s hard work and ambition. They were fueled by the continued and increased support from the Lake community it served.

The Lake Today has been strongly backed some loyal advertisers, who believed in the response they received and the product since the first issue was published Nov. 26, 2008. Purcell Tire, Econolift, Emme’s Attic and Bank Star One are just a few of those advertisers, and our staff gives a big thanks and appreciates each and every one of the businesses who advertised in, sponsored contests and simply supported the Lake Today.

Many special sections, articles, features and columns would not have taken place without the shared interest, assistance and help from community leaders, teachers, dignitaries and generous individuals at the Lake. The Lake Today staff gives special thanks to the directors and staff of all five area chambers of commerce, Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tri-County Lodging Association, historical societies, Camden County Library District, area schools, city and county staffs, fire districts and law enforcement agencies. Our staff also appreciates all the help many residents and visitors of the community gave us in our efforts to publish this weekly newspaper over the years.

With stable support from the Lake community for what was published in the newspaper, our staff equally gives a big thanks to those devoted readers who continued to rally behind The Lake Today. With more than 11,000 readers in the tri-county region and surrounding communities, more than 8,000 readers who requested to receive the Lake Today in their mailbox proved to us that the Lake Today stood as its own unique newspaper in a community saturated with multiple, successful media outlets for the last nearly eight years.

It became the readers’ objective, and positive, voice about what was going on in their own backyard. Readers’ words such as “where is my favorite newspaper going,” “this is such sad news,” “we had such a great relationship with your publication,” and “this newspaper has been so good for the community” continuously filled our email inboxes and voicemails over the past few weeks.

The flood of compliments we’ve received from our readers and supporters after the announcement of the newspaper’s closing has truly touched our hearts, as have the many compliments received throughout our existence.

When we think of these “firsts” and all the wonderful trials, triumphs and goals met through the Lake Today’s time covering the community, it overshadows its end. Even though in a few weeks the newspaper will slowly fade into the Lake’s history, the true “last” for the Lake Today will be the genuine impression and impact it clearly made on its readers.

So, let me try saying it again.

“This is the last issue of the Lake Today newspaper.” Yes, it was a little easier this time.

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