Localism is trending today in the realms of food and finance. The institution of the local community newspaper is also popular, but it wasn't blogged into being - it was born long before videos started going viral. Major-metropolitan newspapers may be a slowly dying breed, but community newspapers prove that American journalism is alive, well and living in the rural areas, small towns and suburbs of our land.
The word "newspaper" may conjure mental images of a big pressroom, delivery trucks and eight-column banner headlines, but 97% of U.S. papers have a paid circulation of less than 50,000. Their combined circulations, though, exceed 109 million - more than 3 times the aggregate total of the big daily newspapers.
These are the community newspapers. They are staffed by professional journalists, but their news coverage is locally-oriented. High-school sports and academics, zoning issues, petty crime, neighborhood events, clubs, services, organizations, festivities and milestones - this is the stuff that the local news beat is made of. It is the sort of focus that big-city papers have increasingly lacked both the time and the inclination to provide.
This single-minded dedication to meeting the needs of their audience has set the community papers like The Courier apart from their big-city brethren.
Major-metropolitan newspaper circulations began declining when they lost touch with readers and advertisers, long before the advent of the Internet. Today, the concentration on consumer demand distinguishes the community newspaper product from that of advocacy journalists and hyper-localists. The faddists are motivated by ideological or topical considerations extrinsic to their relationship with their customers. The bond between the community papers and their readers is organic.
University of North Carolina journalism instructor and textbook author Jock Lauterer summed up this relationship neatly: "Community journalism… is the heartbeat of American journalism, journalism in its natural state." That heart beats today as robustly as it did in 1953 when the little Tabor City (NC) Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for its expose of local Ku Klux Klan activities. It was the first Pulitzer award ever made to a weekly newspaper.
A good example of this mix is Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI), which used private capital to grow via acquisitions beginning in 1997. Today, it boasts some 90 small daily newspapers and over 200 smaller weeklies in 22 states.
Corporate ownership has arisen to challenge sole proprietorships and partnerships for dominance in the industry. When successful, this has allowed each paper to retain its individuality while enabling the parent enterprise to enjoy economies of scale and scope.
From Mankato, MN to Plano, TX; from Vienna, VA to Harrisonville, MO to Lee County, MS, community newspapers stand as testament to the continuing vitality of print journalism. Reports of the death of newspapers may be premature; they are surely exaggerated.”
Bradley J. Furnish,
Phone: (816) 518-0550
Access Advertising, LLC