According to the National Newspaper Association, there are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the U.S. and more than 7,000 weekly newspapers.
The first newspaper in the U.S. was started in 1704, long before the nation’s Constitution. They have been essential in uncovering corruption in government, alerting residents to local problems as well as informing people about their communities, sharing good times and recording deaths and local history. But they’ve been hit pretty hard in the last couple of decades, partly due to economic reasons and partly due to the advancement of the internet.
The internet has its benefits, but it doesn’t do what local newspapers do. Most social media and other internet sources aren’t covering the mundane city council and school board meetings. Most do not provide a good, trusted source for local information. Many online sites are extremely biased. Not just politically.
A chamber of commerce will promote its member businesses, but will it report anything bad that happens? If you rely on your local police department’s social media page, do you think you’re going to find out about any abuses or mishandled cases?
Yet, people seem content to abandon their local papers for these free and easily reached social media sites. As they do, it becomes harder for local newspapers to stay in business — to do the job they’re designed to do. You’re going to miss them when they’re gone in ways you probably don’t even realize.
But if you’re bent on killing them, here are some tips on things you can do to drive nails in the newspaper coffin.
Stop subscribing. Only buy a paper occasionally in the grocery store when something strikes your attention. Subscription numbers help newspapers sell advertising based on circulation reach. An evening out for two will generally cost more than a year’s subscription to a weekly newspaper.
Stop buying the paper on newsstands, too. Just because the cost of the newspaper is less than what you’ll spend on your beverage at lunch is no reason to toss that dollar away.
Don’t send your news to your local newspaper. If you get married, have a baby, etc., just post it to your favorite social media site where your friends might see it. Don’t worry about a sense of community.
Lump your local newspaper in with all media that you despise. Talk up “fake news” and bias that largely comes from broadcast and cable news. Gripe about “the media’ making no distinction between sources you don’t like and your local newspaper.
Press the “like” button on every business and organization on social media to drive their audience numbers up even though you may never visit their page again or see any of their posts. This will help give the sense that they have a wider reach than they actually do.
If you are part of an organization, like a civic club or a chamber of commerce, post to your social media site first and exclusively. When a newspaper has information like that first — even little things like event dates — it helps sell papers. By posting your information online only, you can help ensure that newspapers will become less relevant to their readers.
If you do decide to send your event information to the newspaper, expect them to publish it for you multiple times for free. Printing on paper has a cost. Delivering papers to subscribers has a cost. An employee typing your information or scanning your photo is being paid by the newspaper. There’s no reason for you to think that you should help bear any of these costs. That’s their job, right?
If you own a business, try to rely on all the free things you can do, like social media. Never buy an ad in the newspaper even though it’s tax-deductible. Never mind that the newspaper will reach a broader audience. Think only in terms of direct revenue from advertising. Don’t consider how newspapers help expand your brand recognition. Your ad dollars also help support content, such as photos of the local sports teams, news coverage, community events. By skipping newspaper advertising, you can help make sure that there is no money available for the newspaper to promote the community.
If you visit a store for a special you saw in the newspaper, don’t tell the manager that you saw it. Then she would know for sure that her newspaper advertising is working.
When you see a typo or little mistake in the newspaper, be sure to make fun of it online. Point it out. Laugh about it. Help erode the newspaper’s credibility.
If you need some printing done, like envelopes, letterhead, flyers, business cards, etc., look online for the cheapest, easiest thing you can find. Never mind that your local newspaper probably has a shop right in your community that can print those things for you, often cheaper than you can find on the internet.
They also have graphic artists who will work with you to create a cool design. By using online-only sources, you can make sure that the printing is done elsewhere, sometimes not even in the U.S. By spending your dollars online, you not only hurt your local newspaper, you take money out of your community.
If you’re a school, post all your important and fun news online. Don’t send it to the newspaper first or at all. That way, people will come to your page for school information instead of relying on their local newspapers. You can make sure the stuff you post is all positive while you undermine the local news source that might actually call you out for an open meetings violation or some other pesky issue.
When it’s all said and done, your local newspaper will close its doors and you can sit back and wonder how that happened. You can opine about how your local media let you down. Speculate about their poor business acumen. Talk about what a horrible rag the paper had become and feel good that you abandoned them years earlier, before it got bad.
You’ll still get some news. Someone will post a crappy cellphone photo from the basketball game taken from the bleachers. You’ll still be able to find information about special events and shopping deals if you go looking for them.
But will you know it when your town board pushes through an ordinance that adversely impacts you? Will you know it when the school board violates the Open Meetings Act and your right to know? Will you see an unbiased comparison of political candidates? Will you know what really happened when you heard all those sirens in town? Will you find in-depth, thoughtful commentary on local issues? Will you seek out obituaries of old friends and neighbors that you didn’t even know had passed?
Without newspapers, your world will become smaller.
I’m preaching to the choir, of course, because if you’re reading this, you’re probably holding a newspaper right now or at least reading it online. Thank you for that. If it’s one of my newspapers, double thanks. I can only assume that you value what you are holding. Maybe not like you value some other things, but it’s worth a buck, anyway.
If you want to keep reading the paper for years to come, perhaps you could help us out even more by encouraging your friends to subscribe and by continuing to send in your news items and advertising that help build and maintain a sense of community.
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ever notice how a social media post that starts out “What the media isn’t telling you” is always followed by something from a media source?