Editorial: Community newspapers still a sacred part of life
Oct 13, 2013 | 610 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By the calendar, National Newspaper Week ended Saturday, but such an observation — while nonetheless appropriate as a badge of honor for the Fourth Estate — is a misnomer because this champion of the printed word has been, still is and will be a part of readers’ lives year-round.

It’s this simple: News happens.

And newspapers — whether daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or some alternative combination — report it. While most have commonality in style, they do have differences.

Some accent the negative.

Some give fair time, space and energy to the positive.

Some find a sweet spot that allows a little of both.

Some believe readers want more state, national and international headlines in their local publication; for the record, we do not.

Some believe readers want more local headlines and priority given to community news; and for the record, this is what we believe at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Frankly, it has been our observation over the past few years that more and more community newspapers — including some metros — are returning to their hometown roots for front page news.

Some try to sell their printed product to readers with “shock and awe” campaigns by training their writers to go after the negative in life. Their belief, as written in a “Letter to the Editor” we recently published from a local resident, is that “... bad news sells; good news does not.”

Some pursue a balanced approach — hard news, soft news, news features, features, sports and community sections that tell the stories, and the experiences, of their hometown residents.

Truly, the newspaper industry is changing — not in its fundamental doctrine to report objectively, accurately and responsibly, degrees of which vary from publication to publication — but in the tools it uses. To most die-hard journalists, the printed edition remains the heartbeat of the newspaper industry, and this is how the lords of ink intended it with the invention of the first printing press. But the arrival of the Internet years ago brought new opportunities for print editions to expand into a whole new world while reaching out to new, and younger, generations and to readers from afar.

Does such technology spell the doom of newsprint as we know it today? No.

Does mankind’s deepening journeys into cyberspace mean printed editions will become obsolete? No.

Does this whole new world of electronics challenge the future of an industry that faithful readers consider a sacred part of Americana? Of course it does. But in the words of Mark Twain, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

People still read newspapers. Many like nothing more than a morning cup of coffee with their print edition of choice and others enjoy sitting back at home after dinner to read up on the happenings around them in their evening publication.

Readers still love their sports section and arguing over who is the best team, why a local coach did this and if a particular athlete really said that.

Longtime subscribers still clip articles and photographs of loved ones for scrapbooks at home, and showing them off to others at church and family reunions.

Subscribers continue to love the crossword puzzles, the comic pages and thumbing through the scores of colorful inserts from merchants offering big deals, the latest products and special discounts.

Many still read their hometown newspaper from front to back while pausing on Page 2 for a couple of extra minutes at the most well-read section: the Obituaries.

Technology is great. Cyberspace is a manmade miracle. And people today are getting their news from a myriad of sources.

But the community newspaper is not dead, nor is it dying.

As long as there are towns, there will be hometown newspapers.

As long as people read, the stories of their community will be seen.

As long as folks love to talk, their conversation will be launched — and we use this as a term of affection — by the local “rag.”

Like any business, newspapers today face challenges, but not from a lack of readers. In Tennessee alone, 3.6 million people spend an average of 40 minutes each week perusing their local newspaper.*

That’s a lot of folks.

Long live the community newspaper. Let the presses roll!

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* 2012 National Newspaper Association and Reynolds Journalism Institute Readership Study