Don’t cry for local newspapers

Reprinted with the permission of the St. Joseph News-Press

The notion that newspapers are a floundering industry overlooks one fact: Strong local newspapers continue to have the largest audience of interested news and advertising consumers in virtually every market they serve.

This is particularly true in our part of the world.

When the Northwest Missouri Press Association gathers for its 123rd annual meeting today in Mound City, the room will be full of enterprising local newshounds and business folks from across the region — places like Bethany, Rock Port, Savannah, Plattsburg, St. Joseph, Cameron and Maryville.

These publishers, editors, reporters and advertising sales professionals have a uniquely valuable understanding of what their communities want and need in the way of news and advertising services.

This is why you will find these publications and their websites so quick to publish your news about young people’s sports and academic achievements. This is why they carry the local grocery ads and feature merchants’ specials for back-to-school shopping.

This is why when you pick up the paper you will find prominent coverage of local schools, city and county governments, civic groups, hospitals and other nonprofits, and businesses big and small. This also is where you can turn to find the help-wanted ads and news of elections.

This is why every well-established home in the region holds a treasure of newspaper clippings recounting births, marriages and deaths — the most important events in any family, all told with care by local papers.

The recession hit newspapers hard, as it did every Main Street business. The shifting media landscape — led by the growth of the Internet, then the smart phone — created dozens of new competitors.

In the face of this onslaught, our regional publishers have fared remarkably well in comparison to their big-city newspaper cousins. Most smaller papers have weathered the storm, continue to have a strong base of print subscribers and are quick to point out they have gained new readers through the Internet, mobile devices and other initiatives targeted at specific audiences.

It’s been a scramble to remake the business model; to make sure these knowledgeable and trustworthy local news organizations adjust quickly enough to serve readers and advertisers of this generation on their terms.

The good news that will be noted at today’s press meeting: These efforts are showing growing success, and with that success comes increasing confidence local newspapers and websites will occupy prominent positions in their communities for years to come.

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