Locally Owned Newspapers Are A Foundation of the Community

Locally Owned Newspapers Are A Foundation of the Community

by Doyle Ranstrom on Jul 4, 2020

The first time I was in a local newspaper, I was less than one year old.  My baby picture won a cute baby contest and was published in the paper.  Sadly, in terms of looks, I peaked in the first few months of my life and it has been downhill ever since.  

Since then, I have been in a local newspaper a few times over the years, sometimes for sports, sometimes for business and sometimes for non-profit work.  In the last couple of years, I have thought a lot about locally owned newspapers. The newspaper business has and continues to struggle with many closing down.   One reason is the changes in media overall, advertising revenues, and poor management and planning decisions by newspaper executives.  Another is predatory practices of hedge funds and private equity funds.  I will write more about this in a later blog.  

There also numerous examples of locally owned newspapers of not only being stable but in some cases thriving.  One reason is studies have shown residents of a community consider their locally owned and operated newspaper to be a more reliable source of information then National media outlets.    

I have been a long-time reader and now an occasional contributor to a local newspaper where my wife and I have a residence in Big Sky, MT.  

It seems to me, it takes several things for a community, especially a small one, to thrive and prosper.  One of these in my estimation is a locally owned and operated newspaper. 

I would even suggest that locally-owned newspapers are one of the foundations of a community.  There are many reasons.  One, most of us like to know what is going on in our community.  Two, local newspapers cover major issues that affect the community.  Three, and perhaps most important, living in the world which often focuses on the negative and all the problems we face, locally owned newspapers are more likely to remind us that most of us are good people trying to do the right thing, striving to live a good life and hope to make the world a little better by our presence.

Coverage of local issues, committees, public and private groups is extremely important because it provides a public record and encourages transparency.  It is had been documented Nationally when city and business leaders operate in the dark, bad things often happen.  Locally owned newspapers cannot stop this but can make it more difficult and provide exposure.  A locally owned independently owned newspaper answers to the community and their readers, not an outside owner such as a hedge fund or private equity fund which has the only goal of profits and has no interest or commitment to the community being served. 

Local newspapers relate National issues to the community it serves.  This is important because it puts a local face to a National problem.  It is much easier for an individual to comment on an issue from distance than when the individual is across the street. 

Local newspapers also provide information on community development, issues, and activities.  

Finally, local newspapers like regularly highlight local artists, athletes, professionals, and community volunteers.  All communities are blessed with local talent which may go unnoticed if not covered in the newspaper.  

As we celebrate the birth of our country, it is important to spend some time thinking about freedom of the press.  Our founding fathers knew a free and active press was essential to democracy.  The idea then and now, is not to agree, but to have a thoughtful, informed intelligent platform to exchange and discuss ideas.  Of course, then as now, coverage in general and editorials in specific could be misinformed, contain mistruths, and occasionally be brutal.  But at least readers knew the paper was locally owned and operated. 

Locally owned and operated newspapers are part of the foundation of any thriving community.  But they are use or lose it endeavors.  Support your local newspaper, [some are free and others require a subscription] and if applicable to your circumstances advertise in it.  Almost all are available in print and digital form.  I prefer the print, but nice to have digital as an option.  I truly believe locally-owned newspapers are essential to the quality and prosperity of a community.  Even more important, I believe they are a necessity for democracy to continue.