Comments about local newspapers

Community papers should consider social networking 
– John D. Montgomery NNA Region 7 Director

“I feel community newspapers must continue to do what they do best and that is to report everything about their communities and areas.

“No one else is going to be able to provide that type of news coverage. We all still Montgomery face the growing presence of the Internet and must continue to provide that service as well.

“Social networking is exploding and community newspapers need to get on board if they are not already.

“Providing concise and neatly packaged news is a must. I believe as long as we get as many names and pictures in the paper, we can still be a vibrant and viable source. Maybe the metro newspapers should have kept their content more local.”

Use print product to take you into the digital world 
 Jim Sterling Missouri chair in Community Newspaper Management Missouri School of Journalism

“Smart publishers are keeping an eye on what's happening in regard to the Internet, social media and Google. Community newspapers have long had a franchise as the information services for their cities and towns. Lots of people want to take that away, and we should not be willing to give it up by keeping our head in the sand.

“I still like print and don't see it disappearing. But we are in the power position using our print products to move into digital media, and we can use both to cross-promote electronic and print. Our core audience still likes print, but the public's wants and needs are changing and we have to adapt to that change.

“Once we're out of this recession, things will swing in a positive direction. But the recession may be longer than we expect.”

Digital versions of newspapers will become more popular 
– Robert Williams Jr., NNA At-Large Director

“I believe the print product will gradually be supplemented more and more as demand for the same information in a different format grows.

“A new means of delivery will develop to give readers the look of a newspaper on an electronic device. The device will allow the story to expand, providing more information on a topic with a touch, such as a picture becoming a video. This is already being done and will soon reach our level of newspapering. Non-daily community newspapers are currently using electronic delivery to become hourly information providers and in other ways to supplement and enhance the core print product.”

Small town businesses rely on their local newspapers 
– Jim Hopson, chief executive officer ASP Westward Houston

“I am optimistic about the future of community newspapers.

“While community newspapers have lost a big chunk of revenue with the shift of classified advertising to the Internet, local retail advertising has remained pretty solid, and the small merchants and service providers who are the bulk of our advertisers continue to rely on community newspapers as their primary advertising vehicle. The big dailies have been hammered by the loss of national advertising and the steady erosion of spending by major retailers, along with the collapse of print classifieds. Community newspapers never got much national and major account advertising, so they did not take the hit when those categories tanked.

“The readership of community newspapers has also remained strong. Readership is evaporating at the big dailies because consumers believe they can easily get a satisfactory news report from the Internet or TV . Not true for the kind of highly localized content that community newspapers provide.

“The metro dailies and a growing number of online competitors (e.g. AOL's Patch) covet our readers and our healthy base of local advertisers, and they are launching assaults on community newspapers. But I am confident that if community publishers offer engaging newspapers and websites our franchises will remain robust and the assaults will not succeed.”

Recession's end will give newspapers breathing space  
– Michael C. Bush, chief executive officer/president Heartland Publications LLC Clinton, Conn.

“The end of the Great Recession will see a temporary increase in expenditures in local advertising. That coupled with the higher margins resulting from community newspaper's re-engineering of their operations should result in a 12 to 18-month increase in operating profits.

“Some will see this as a more or less permanent fix, which will be a false read on the future. Rather, this period should be seen as a breathing space when more thoughtful and less expedient changes can be implemented to assure a healthy future for local advertising vehicles based upon good local journalism and expanded community information dissemination. There will always be a future for advertising sold and serviced at the community level; it is our willingness and ability to change, which will be the predictor of whether or not community newspaper companies continue to dominate those services profitably and as good citizens.

© Timothy Boudreau 2010

Timothy Boudreau is an associate professor of journalism for Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. He can be reached at or at 989-774-2354. Boudreau rewrote the research paper he presented during the 2009 Huck Boyd Symposium at NNA's annual convention in Mobile, AL.

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