A town without its own newspaper?

A town without its own newspaper?
By Don Rush

I think I’m on a mini “roll” lately. Last week I hopped up on my soapbox and proclaimed what the role of a community paper is. I waxed philosophically about informing, educating and entertaining and your community newspaper. Community newspapers also help local businesses promote themselves. After writing that, I took a deep breath and stepped down from said box. I put it away only to think of something more I wanted to say.
I pulled out ye ol’ soapbox again and climbed back on top. Have you ever thought what your community would look like, or be, without a community newspaper? You probably haven’t, but I and others have. If you haven’t asked yourself that question, maybe now is a good time ponder what this newspaper means to this community.
I hopped on the internet and typed in the search engine some sort of question which summed up my questions to you and was surprised to actually find some answers.
Get this, a few weeks before this whole COVID-19 pandemic punched us all in the gut, killed thousands and ruined the economy, the University of North Carolina released a study showing in 2019, 2,100 newspapers had disappeared — about 25 percent of the 9,000 newspapers which were publishing in 2004. According to the report I found online, the loss of those newspapers affected 1,800 communities.
So what?
“Big deal,” you say, “No one cried when automobiles destroyed the carriage industry. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles and regardless, I can get my news of the community on social media or local government websites.”
Oh, you ever try to fill your kid’s scrapbook with their posted online achievements? It’s not as appealing as clipping out a newspaper article.
Oh, you trust your local government to let you know when they make mistakes? You think they will willingly report on anything that makes them or any of their decisions look less than perfect?
How many times have you been on any local social media community group to get information, only to find the thread about something turned into a free-for-all, trash-talking, opinion-laced “conversation?”
One report I found online stated, “What does a community lose when it loses its newspapers? The workings of its town hall; information about taxes and property values; the operation of schools for its children; the achievements, or the criminal activities, of local residents; the scores of local ball teams; schedules and reviews of … concerts, restaurants and books; and the offerings of local small businesses.
“Researchers in 2018 found that when a local newspaper closes, municipal borrowing costs — and therefore residents’ taxes — go up. Why? Losing a paper, the study said, creates a ‘local information vacuum.’ It turns out that lenders depend on local reporting to judge the value of government projects. Without that information, lenders tend to charge higher rates.
“Communities without newspapers are also more likely to be victims of corruption — petty and grand — local incidents the national media will never uncover.”
Another study I found stated, “The reliance on social media runs in parallel to the declining confidence in institutions. Hostility to so-called ‘fake news’ has filtered down even to local news outlets, which tend to be more trusted than national ones. Partisanship is contributing to decreased trust in local news sources.
“Some researchers argue that the loss of local news outlets diminishes not just knowledge of local happenings and politics, but also ties within a community. The result is a simultaneous erosion of civility and less engagement in democracy close to home. This manifests in fewer people running for office.”
So, before I get back off my soapbox, I ask you please to consider this question, “What does a community lose when it loses its newspapers?”
Send comments and questions to Don via email to DontRushDon@gmail.com

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