Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is death notice of newspapers premature?

The changing landscape of print media is a frequent topic on this blog. And in one recent blog I wrote that more local coverage would help newspapers survive. Others in the area have shared similar thoughts and now an article with similar themes has appeared in the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editor's quarterly magazine.

The article, "Hold that obit! The report of our death has been greatly exaggerated," is written by Jock Lauterer, the author of Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local 3rd. ed., 2006, the University of North Carolina Press. He teaches journalism at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He can be contacted at

Here is a bit of what he has to say:

The late Charles Kuralt, with his typical gift for the cogent, was the first journalist I ever heard use the expression “relentlessly local.” And I would argue it’s that local-local-local news emphasis that gives the community papers their vision, identity, franchise and future. In the words of Pennsylvania community newspaper editor Jim Sachetti of the Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise, “Local? — It’s the only game in town!”

I would recommend the entire article, but in case you don't get around to it here is one more quote worth reading:

What is it about community papers that make them so viable? Consider the comments of cowboy poet and columnist Baxter Black, who wrote the following in a column titled, “Why I Love My Hometown Paper,” (a weekly in San Pedro, Ariz.): “Small-town papers often thrive because CNN or the New York Times are not going to scoop them for coverage of the ‘VFW Fish Fry’ or ‘Bridge Construction Delay’ or boys and girls playing basketball, receiving scholarships, graduating, getting married or going off to war... I think of local papers as the last refuge of unfiltered America — a running documentary of the warts and triumphs of Real People — unfettered by the Spin and Bias and the Opaque Polish of today’s Homogenized Journalism. It is the difference between Homemade Bread and Pop Tarts.”

ISWNE makes a contribution to the profession by publishing the Grassroots Editor, a quarterly journal that presents significant articles by journalists and academics. Ethical and legal matters are often discussed, and the present and future share the reader's attention with occasional articles of historical interest. The magazine, which comes with ISWNE membership, is also available by subscription and is found in libraries and journalism schools around the world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The death of newspapers as we have known them is already underway. The move is toward online publications and features, which can be good because it allows for more community feedback. However, I think it also signals the death of the community newspaper.

1:53 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A person doesn't have to look any further than the News-Leader in Springfield to see how the printed newspaper is dying. Circulation is down, a lot. Corporate pressures are demanding more and more profit. Water coolers and coffee makers have been taken from the news room to "save costs." And meanwhile, the newspaper is driving more and more content to the web (most recently, our stock report). Plus, the News-Leader is now doing online video reports in competition with local television stations. Large newspapers like this one have an identity crisis ... that is the one good thing you can say about weekly/community newspapers. They understand their market and what they are ... but economic pressures are going to cause that to change too.

1:56 PM, January 19, 2007  

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