Celebrate community, support local (newspapers)
When National Newspaper Week (Oct. 5-11) was started 74 years ago, there wasn’t much competition for newspapers. If you didn’t read the paper, you just didn’t know what was going on around the world or in your hometown.
Now that’s not the case. Internet search engines have put thousands of news sites at our fingertips. Social media helps us keep up with friends and family and whole communities of like-minded people.
But I consider myself lucky. That’s because my generation (I’m 54) will probably be the last that remembers parents who got up almost every single morning of their lives and walked outside to the newspaper tube or driveway, sometimes in pajamas or housecoats, to pick up the paper. At my house I would wait — most of the time impatiently, but being the youngest I was at the bottom of the pecking order — for parents and siblings to finish a section I wanted so I could read it before running off to school. Memories of that morning ritual are a cherished part of my childhood.
Today many have the same habit, but now we’re divided, split and fractured. For many it’s just a few steps to the tablet or laptop instead of the driveway. That daily dose of data is retrieved just as often from websites as it is a newspaper. Many others wait until they get to work, where they steal time to surf websites or perhaps read the paper. Throughout the day some of us get updates on our phones, then perhaps seek out the larger story online.
Digital delivery of news is a fantastic commodity whose business model is still being developed. A small handful of news organizations have figured out a way to stay in business, but no one claims to have it completely figured it out on a large scale.
Which brings me back to the newspaper and National Newspaper Week. Those of us in this business sometimes fear for the future of print, but then reality sets in: those who truly want to be part of a local community, who really want to know the place they live, still pick up a local paper. It’s not just the stories, which are a vital part, but also the news about local businesses you’ll find in the advertisements.
Smaller newspapers still cover news that no one else will touch. That’s our lifeblood and our passion. Check out this week’s stories about the district attorney’s race or the firsthand account of Balsam Range’s success at the International Bluegrass Music Awards in Raleigh. That’s what we love to do, and those who want to read about in online rather than in the newspaper can still feed their habit. But no one else is doing these stories.
We are also fortunate that a movement small newspapers have been touting for decades — buy local, support local — is now spreading throughout the community on many different levels. I get irate when the school system or the county government or the U.S. Park Service chooses a national vendor over an equally capable local company. Makes no sense. No one wants to live in a community that is nothing but chain stores and chain restaurants and where local government awards every contract to companies headquartered a thousand miles away. That’s not who we are as a community.
I’m not usually so blatant, but this week I’ll do it: support your local papers, all of them. They are part of the fabric that helps make Western North Carolina a great place to live.