Spotlight: Community newspapers still alive
“Here is the living disproof of the old adage that nothing is as dead as yesterday’s newspaper… This is what really happened, reported by a free press to a free people. It is the raw material of history; it is the story of our own times.” – Henry Steel Commager, historian, 1951
With all the online news options now available, a question has formed in the minds of journalists and non-journalists alike: Are newspapers a dead medium?
Perhaps. After all, the Tribune Company, owner of several large dailies, filed for bankruptcy in the United States, newspapers such as the Washington Post and Boston Globe and New York Times have cut their staff, and others have cut back their print editions to emphasize the Net.
That is what makes experts cry that the end of the newspaper is near, if not already a fait accompli.
But, there is one area where the newspaper is definitely not dead: the community newspaper.
Why? Well, there are several reasons, the prime one being that, by recording events big and small, community newspapers connect their readers to their communities. If people want to know what’s going on in the world, they can turn on the TV or the Internet. We journalists know that many of them do just that.
But we also know that community newspapers are irreplaceable because they are the repository of history for the town or city or village. Yes, digital means such as video cameras and websites are replacing, or at least complementing, the traditional printed page. Like the dailies, people who work at community newspapers know that these are important measures in terms of reaching as many people as possible with the news. Indeed, many who have left these places say they appreciate being able to go on the Net and catch up with what’s happening in their former community.
However, not everyone has the Internet. And many people still prefer the feel of a physical paper in their hands. I have to admit it – there’s something about getting “inked up” that’s kind of neat, like a reminder about where newspapers come from. It’s kind of like reading a physical book rather than one on an e-reader.
But whether they are published via print and/or Net, it’s unlikely that community newspapers will go out of business.
Big dailies might, because much of the news in them is the same as in other dailies, with perhaps a different spin.
But as long as the people with community newspapers faithfully and accurately record the events of the place, those newspapers will have a place in readers’ hearts – and on the newspaper racks.