News­pa­pers mat­ter now more than ever

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

News­pa­pers — es­pe­cially com­mu­nity news­pa­pers — are alive and kick­ing, no mat­ter what you may have read on­line. We chron­i­cle the lives and times of our neigh­bors, and keep a close eye on govern­ment. And in ad­di­tion to our print prod­ucts, we main­tain an up-to-date web­site to ser ve the pub­lic.

This is Na­tional News­pa­per Week, Oct. 7 through 13, when news­pa­pers are en­cour­aged to pro­mote them­selves. Frankly, we don’t do a re­ally good job of self-pro­mo­tion — not nearly as good as tele­vi­sion, prob­a­bly be­cause we don’t try as hard. We’re gen­er­ally too busy meet­ing the next dead­line.

Yet we’re con­vinced we have great rea­son to be proud. We are the pa­per of record for this com­mu­nity, and we take that re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously. As a twice-weekly news­pa­per, we may not be as im­me­di­ate as tele­vi­sion, but the race is not al­ways to the swift. Tele­vi­sion can give you snap­shots and sound bites, but we can give you the big pic­ture — and you can al­ways go back and check the de­tails at your con­ve­nience.

And with the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent’s web­site and bur­geon­ing pres­ence on so­cial me­dia, we can give you a bit of the swift as well.

This year’s theme for the week is “Jour­nal­ism Mat­ters, Now More Than Ever.” That’s what we hope our read­ers grasp, twice a week, on the news­stand or in your mail­box. Real sto­ries, real jour­nal­ism, real work, real dead­lines, real hon­esty, real facts and real changes, of­ten in the face of real threats to our busi­ness.

In­deed, the job of news­pa­pers in Amer­ica, in thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ties like ours, has never been more chal­leng­ing — or more chal­lenged. News­pa­per pub­lish­ers were on pins and nee­dles ear­lier this year when it ap­peared that tar­iffs on newsprint might deal an­other crip­pling blow. Thank­fully, that storm passed and the tar­iffs didn’t, but newsprint re­mains a huge ex­pense.

Rol­lie Atkin­son of Sonoma West Pub­lish­ers in Cal­i­for­nia re­minds us, “once upon a time, news­pa­per cir­cu­la­tion grew faster than the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion … But since the 1980s, it has been on a steady and wors­en­ing de­cline. At the same time, news­pa­pers re­main the top choice for peo­ple seek­ing real news and re­li­able in­for­ma­tion.”

Atkin­son cites a re­cent poll that found more than half of Amer­i­cans still sub­scribe or pay for news­pa­pers or ac­cess to their web­sites. Only 11 per­cent of the sur­vey’s re­spon­dents said the in­ter­net was their pri­mary news source.

“News­pa­pers have sur­vived the ad­vent of ra­dio and broad­cast TV,” Atkin­son says. “but the threat of 24/7 in­ter­net-de­liv­ered me­dia, com­mer­cials and amuse­ment is dis­rupt­ing the very re­al­ity for which news­pa­pers were first in­vented. More and more peo­ple can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween real news and fake news … But no amount of tweets will pro­tect the pub­lic’s right to know or watch­dog our govern­ment.”

So what’s the fu­ture for news­pa­pers when peo­ple th­ese days, es­pe­cially younger ones, think real news should be free and mag­i­cally ap­pear on their smart phones? This is a busi­ness that has had to change with the times, and will con­tinue to do so. So even if news­pa­pers as we have come to know them evolve into some­thing dif­fer­ent in the com­ing decades, keep­ing the con­tent trust­wor­thy and re­li­able will re­main the hall­mark.

In many ways, lo­cal news­pa­pers are the last refuge of un­fil­tered Amer­ica. At the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, we re­al­ize we are im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity. With your con­tin­ued co­op­er­a­tion, we make a dif­fer­ence. So cel­e­brate that with us twice a week, ev­ery week.

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