Newspapers help bind communities, but they can’t do it alone
June 12, 2022 Updated Mon., June 13, 2022 at 8:34 a.m.
The pandemic made us realize the importance of things that we previously took for granted. Many of us now realize how much we value the ability to dine out at our favorite restaurant to celebrate a birthday or listen to a band live.
There also has been an increasing awareness of the importance of the local newspaper and its coverage of the issues the community needs to know. From a listing of where to find COVID testing centers to which restaurants are open or to learn about the latest actions of city hall, the local paper pulls the community together like nothing else.
But, just like your favorite restaurant or music venues, newspapers have had their share of challenges. Newspapers have been disrupted by changing media consumption habits, and the use of their content by Big Tech – without receiving compensation. Plus, as Main Streets across the country have been decimated by Amazon and other online competitors, newspapers’ main source of revenue, advertising, also has been impacted.
Newspapers have responded by changing their business model, and we’re seeing an increase in people coming together to support their newspaper through digital subscriptions and even philanthropic gifts. Community leaders are becoming part of the solution, whether it is by providing grants to their local newspaper or helping fund specific areas of news coverage. Newspapers are changing and adapting, but it isn’t a fast or easy process.
In the same way that community leaders are stepping up, members of Congress are asking what they can do to help local journalism. When a newspaper closes, cities and towns lose an important part of the fabric that binds them together. Many legislators are taking note and are looking for ways to help sustain the newspapers in their districts. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which was sponsored by Washington’s own Rep. Dan Newhouse, is just one example of legislation that would provide direct support to local journalism. Sen. Maria Cantwell filed a Senate version, and it is great to see support from both sides of the political aisle. Many state legislatures also have taken up the call, and legislation filed in several states would directly benefit local news organizations.
While the model may be changing, having a sustainable newspaper will take community support. But it also is incumbent on the newspaper to be responsible to its audience. I am encouraged about our industry’s future when I see newspapers, like The Spokesman-Review, that are deeply engaged with their community. From in-depth coverage of the local arts scene to reporting on national politics from the Spokane perspective, The Spokesman-Review is committed to being part of the community and providing unparalleled news coverage. With that approach, I am bullish on the future of America’s newspapers.
Dean Ridings is the CEO of America’s Newspapers, an organization serving more than 1,600 newspapers across the US and Canada. Learn more at newspapers.org.
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