- Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 16:52
- Published on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 16:52
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Being a small local newspaper, we have been paying close attention to the recent discussion about AOL’s decision to close 150 to 200 of its Patch news sites and Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post. The fact that a new paper has been launched in Long Beach, California merited a segment on Morning Joe on MSNBC.
Yes - the newspaper business has been a challenge over the last few years as it strives to compete in the digital age.
So, why should you care about the future of local newspapers?
Well, who else is going to publish the honor rolls and the frequently not very good and not very in-focus photos of what in the newspaper business is referred to as the grin-and-grab — people getting or giving checks or awards.
Your local weekly newspaper is happy to publish the photos of Scout projects and science fair winners. The more local, the better, we say.
We were “hyper-local” before we ever heard of the term. That’s our niche - if we took time to write a mission statement it would be “local-local-local.” Figuring out how that fits into the modern news business is the trick today.
While we were planning to write an editorial about why you should care about and support your local newspaper we happened to catch a segment of a recent Rachel Maddow Show.
Whatever you may think of Rachel Maddow’s political slant, her recent commentary warmed the hearts of all newspaper people. Here is an excerpt from a segment on her show about the efforts of a local elections board to rewrite their minutes to NOT provide information about their open discussion and vote on polling places:
Rachel Maddow: “Because what I need you to do and what you should want to do is you need to pay and subscribe to your local newspaper. Whatever it is, your local paper needs you. It needs to exist. It needs to have enough reporters on staff, to have enough subscriber income to pay for local reporters and to pay for editors so you can actually get coverage of what goes on at these usually pretty boring meetings in your county and in your town because sometimes they’re really important and God bless the Winston-Salem Journal, God bless that local newspaper.
“They sent reporter Bertrand Gutierrez to that freaking board meeting in Boone, North Carolina, and he heard the big fight over the minutes. About trying to make these things disappear from the record, these things that actually happened, they’re going to be disappeared from the record?
“And that reporter did the reportorial thing you are supposed to do in that circumstance and he filed a public records request and he got all of the different versions of the minutes released to him, released to the newspaper, all three different versions.
“So he’s got the minutes that show what actually happened and he’s got the proposed nonpartisan revisions, and he’s got the way the Republicans want it remembered officially.
“So these are the original minutes of what actually happens, and these are the approved minutes, the approved history of this discussion which doesn’t include any of the embarrassing stuff. That would be all that we knew about if it were not for the Winston-Salem Journal.”
Thanks Rachel. In addition to covering middle school football and the local art walk, your local paper also covers those local government meetings where - once in a while - the local governing body tries to pull a fast one. That’s why you need your local paper.
That’s also why we need the Freedom of Information Act, reporters who use it, government officials who honor it, and, most of all, readers who really want to know what is going on.
Big papers, TV and the internet don’t give you the information on your locality like your local weekly can and without that source of news, your community will be the less for it.