By Melissa Martin, Ph.D.
“For the times they are a-changin’” sang Bob Dylan. And the digital age has changed the way information is eaten, swallowed, and digested. We can’t stop progress, but we must maintain the salience of our newspapers (in print or digital). Why? Newspapers, whether country, state, or local serve significant roles in societies and cultures. And residents like hometown news.
“Print newspapers are suffering declining readership and revenue in most of the developed world, such as in Europe and Australia, though in general the problems are not as severe as in the United States, particularly when it comes to revenue. But in much of the developing world, print newspapers are thriving, in some cases dramatically,” according to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center with information gleaned from the World Association of Newspapers 2010 and 2009 World Press Trends reports.
In Africa circulation in 2009 rose across the continent by five percent. As India’s literacy rate grows, so does its newspaper circulation. Countries with evolving democracies show newspaper growth (Hungary, Russia, Kosovo, Russia, and Afghanistan). Asia is home to 67 of the 100 largest newspapers in the world.
“When local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out. People and their stories can’t find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it’s nobody’s job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn’t know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally,” penned Kriston Capps in a 2018 internet article at City Lab.
As advertising revenue has been gobbled up by the Internet giants Facebook and Google, newspaper profits have plunged. The World Wide Web is here to stay, but humans around the globe need to stand up for newspapers.
The School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has collected, researched and analyzed data from 2004 to 2016 on more than 9,500 local newspapers in the United States. The comprehensive study of newspaper coverage found that 516 rural newspapers closed or merged from 2004 to 2018. In metropolitan areas, 1,294 newspapers were shuttered. A national total of 1,810 papers that ceased publication.
Read the 88-page report “The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts” at www.usnewsdeserts.com.
I recently attended the annual conference for members of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization in the USA. The NSNC promotes professionalism and camaraderie among columnists and other writers of the serial essay, including bloggers. And advocates for columnists and free-press issues.
Don’t close the casket and bury local newspapers. Ye naysayers of doom and gloom—readers want, need, and love their hometown newspapers.
I urge readers of their local newspaper (in print or digital) to write a letter of support to the newspaper staff. Dust off your duff and vocalize your opinion by writing a letter to the editor. Take some time out of your hurry-scurry day and communicate with your newspaper people. They need to know you care.
What else can you do? Pay for a subscription to your local newspaper (print or digital). The staff and their families need to eat at least once a day.
Use newspaper content as a teaching tool in schools. Communities need strong newspaper-in-education programs.
Local businesses need to continue spending their advertising dollars with local newspapers, whether in print or digital.
“He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.”— P. T. Barnum