Maybe I announced the death of newspapers a bit too quickly. I made the following comment regarding newspapers a couple of weeks ago in my column:
"It is my understanding that the rural community updates are fading, as are small town newspapers. I think Facebook has replaced some of that void."
Well, I was pleased to hear from the Arkansas Press Association, which took me to task for my comment. Shoot, I’m pleased to hear from anyone, particularly a group such as the APA.
It’s no secret that newspaper publishing has declined. How much exactly is hard to pinpoint. One report says it has declined a whopping 40 percent in a decade while the American Society of Newspaper Editors reports a slightly less pessimistic 28 percent in the same time period.
But both reports agree that publishing is declining and many newspapers are struggling with how to make money. Most have combined their papers with their websites, some paid and some unpaid.
The Maumelle Monitor offers a free website, while the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette only offers an abbreviated version for free. You have to subscribe to the paper to see the whole site. I am sure you’ll see more websites charge a fee in the future for full access.
Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, has these thoughts to offer on the viability of newspapers:
"Most of the dire news regarding newspapers is related to city or metro newspapers who have been hard hit by the downturn in the economy. While that certainly isn’t the case for all metro newspapers, it is what gets all the attention regarding traditional newspapers.
"While community newspapers, like most of those in Arkansas, have been hit hard just like any other small business, for the most part community newspapers continue to thrive and they do so because they remain the best source of local information. They retain very loyal reader bases by being relevant to the communities they serve.
"Community newspapers aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be here doing what they do best, reporting local news, for many years to come. How we deliver that information will change, but they’ll still be newspapers, local people gathering local news and reporting on issues and incidents important to their readers. "
According to a report sent to me by the APA, more than 70 percent of Arkansas adults read a daily newspaper at least once a week during an average week, Monday through Friday. This is significantly higher than the national average of 57 percent. The numbers are about the same for weekly newspaper readership. I guess we are a little brighter than your average state.
As of September last year, this newspaper has a little over 2,000 subscribers, but hopefully that is going up with the effort to be totally locally focused. Do your part and get a subscription!
Newspapers have no better friend than me. I have read the paper since I was a kid. If my morning Arkansas Democrat-Gazette doesn’t show up on my front porch, I have withdrawal symptoms. I also love The New York Times, USA Today, and even the Arkansas Times, the most liberal publication in the state.
When I give talks to college advertising and public relations classes, I strongly urge them to read a daily newspaper. No, I chastise them if they don’t. I think it’s important to see where a story lands on the page and its relationship to other articles, photographs, etc.
Newspapers are our history in the making and a daily journal of our lives.
Today’s TV news will not report any story in depth, especially when the length of the average news story is about 2 minutes. We have to depend on newspapers for long-form coverage and complete documentation.
It’s crucial that we continue to support local newspapers. If for no other reason, we must support investigative journalism and community news. Otherwise, it will not happen. We can’t let scallywags go unscathed or a community T-ball team go unnoticed. It all matters.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore owns a creative consulting firm, Neal Moore Creative. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter, @kneelmore.