Local news remains as important as ever
Dear Readers and Advertisers
I am sorry to inform you that the Macon County News & Shopping Guide after 40 years has stopped publishing. Our last edition was July 27, 2023.
I want to thank all of our readers and advertisers for all of your support over these many years. It was a pleasure doing business with you and I wish you all well.
Owner and Publisher,
From the Macon County News website
Yes, a newspaper over in Macon County just became a data point in a growing trend in the United States, that of newspapers that have closed in recent years. The Macon County News is the first that has been around that long that has closed in our region, but I’m certain they won’t be the last. Across this country there are many communities that have no media outlets producing local news.
Steven Waldman, president of Rebuild Local News and a co-founder of Report for America, wrote about this trend in the most recent issue of the Atlantic magazine:
You’ve probably read about the collapse of local news over the past two decades. On average, two newspapers close each week. Some 1,800 communities that used to have local news now don’t. Many of the papers still hanging on are forced to make do with skeleton staffs as their owners, often private-equity firms, seek to cut costs. The number of newspaper newsroom employees dropped by 57 percent from 2008 to 2020, according to a Pew Research study, leading to thousands of “ghost newspapers” that barely cover their community.
All the newspapers in this region are competitors to The Smoky Mountain News, but in other vitally important ways we are passengers on the same ship. As for-profit businesses, we are all navigating a fast-changing marketplace for what we produce. Our print products are still viable, producing news valuable to the region. We help many small and large businesses get their message out through our advertisements. But many people only read our digital platforms. That leads to hundreds of thousands of pageviews per month, but the revenue from those views aren’t as robust as we’d like — something every news producing business deals with.
The big boys — Meta and Google, primarily — retain a great majority of the money that goes to online advertising. We and other media outlets are getting a share, but not what is necessary to survive if that were the only source of dollars.
In his article, Waldman shows that having local newspapers actually saves citizens money. He cited a book called “Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism,” by Stanford professor James Hamilton. One of the examples cited by Hamilton was a series of articles by The Raleigh News and Observer:
…. a series by the Raleigh News & Observer that found that, because the state criminal-justice system didn’t adequately keep track of those under supervision, 580 people on probation in North Carolina killed someone from 2000 to 2008. After the state implemented reforms, murders committed by people on probation declined. Applying the statistical “value of human life” used by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Hamilton concluded that society saved about $62 million in just the first year after the policy changes. The series cost only about $200,000 to produce.
Waldman’s group — Rebuild Local News — has been arguing for a federal tax credit for companies that employ real journalists and another tax break for small businesses that advertise with local news organizations. If these measures pass, it would provide a boost to local news organizations of all types, which would in turn be good for communities across the nation.
I can say that with conviction — it would be good for communities across the nation. I’ve been a journalist in North Carolina since 1987, and I’ve witnessed and been a part of many important issues and projects in which reporters and newspapers have played a huge role. In just the last few months, we’ve seen how news outlets have helped in holding Pactiv Evergreen responsible to employees, to Canton and to the environment as they closed their paper mill.
News reporting gives local people power. It’s not about us — reporters and editors and such — it’s about arming the citizenry with knowledge about their towns and counties, their elected leaders and their communities so they can make informed choices. If that keeps happening, Western North Carolina remains a great place to live. If more news outlets go the way of the Macon County News, well, it won’t be good. That’s a promise.