Once upon a time, newspapers were king. There was no social media, there was no television, there wasn’t even radio for a while — there were only newspapers. Just about every important piece of information was shared to the masses via news clippings. Articles about industry, sports, healthcare, politics, music, and so much more were found inside the morning paper, providing necessary and entertaining information to people in local communities and across the country.
And even though newspapers must now compete for readers’ attention with Twitter, cable TV, and radio, newspapers still play an indispensable role in countless communities.
Newspapers may not be king of the media anymore — but this week, they are.
From October 7 through October 13, communities across the country will celebrate their local newspapers during the 78th annual National Newspaper Week.
This annual, weeklong celebration recognizes the services that newspapers — and all of their hardworking employees — provide on a daily basis. Sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers, this year’s theme for National Newspaper Week is the importance of journalism in a democratic society. In the era of fake news and misinformation, quality local journalism matters.
Today, many newspapers are struggling to compete in the digital world. While many companies are shifting away from television and print advertising and toward digital advertising, most of those dollars go to companies like Google and Facebook, not local publishers. According to a Social Media Marketing Industry Report, roughly two-thirds of marketers cited Facebook as the most important social platform. And with more than a billion users, Facebook is collecting advertising dollars that used to go to local newspapers
Similarly, the way people consume the news is changing, causing even more problems for newspapers. Rather than starting their day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, many young people prefer to read the news on their phone. It’s estimated that 50% of mobile phone owners use their phone as their primary Internet source. Despite the fact that people are constantly online, newspapers, whether in digital or paper form, still keep people informed about issues facing their community.
“Everything in this newspaper is important to someone,” said Matt Geiger, Executive Editor for News Publishing Co., Black Earth, Wisconsin. “Weekly community newspapers are eclectic, to say the least.”
When a national story breaks, the majority of people can easily access that information after a few clicks online. There is plenty of localized content, however, that isn’t as accessible online. That’s where newspapers come into play. In thousands of towns around the country, the local newspaper is virtually the only reliable source of real news.
Newspapers are filled with heartwarming, essential, and even traumatic information. From covering local shop openings and charity events to tragic car accidents and obituaries, local newspapers reflect the beating heart of their community.
“We publish birth announcements, obituaries, and the various things that, when wedged between those two book ends, make up the lives that make up our communities,” Geiger said.
At the national level, journalism has been under attack. The need for objective reporting is still alive and well, however, and local communities and their newspapers are the first line of defense against fake news and conspiracy theories.
“Now, when facts are increasingly perceived as optional and bad information clogs the Internet, we need journalists asking questions, cutting through propaganda and offering fair and balanced reports,” said Sid Schwartz, editor of The Gazette in Janesville, Wisconsin. “Our republic depends on it.”