It’s a tough time for news. Especially for newspapers. Even more so for community newspapers.
As Penny Abernathy said a few classes ago, we can’t give up on community newspapers. She brought up a point that I, I guess, already knew but had never thought of: We should care deeply about newspapers in small towns — especially when there are high rates of unemployment, poverty and a lack of education.
The people in these small towns are the ones who need the functions of journalism the most. These are people who may not have another place to go to for local news, for a sense of community and truth, for accountability of their local leaders in difficult times, for a light of hope in some ways.
Since some of the most vital newspapers are also the ones who are struggling the most, this leaves a sad situation. One that needs help. Thank the journalism gods for people like Penny Abernathy who care enough to try to do something about it.
Now I know about the competitive nature of journalism. We want it first. We want the best story with the best angle and the best sources for the best quotes and the best of the best of the best of the best.
But as news shifts to, I’d argue, a place where readers and listeners don’t care about first (they can get that on their Twitter feeds), but right, why can’t our competitive egos get in check?
The Washington Post has built a network of partnerships with local papers across the country. The (free) deal is this: local papers can give their subscribers free access to the Post’s content. It gives the Post more eyeballs in places nowhere near D.C., and gives the local papers an incentive for readers to subscribe.
Plus: it takes both entities recognizing their own places. A small community paper in Kentucky does not have the resources or the mission to cover national and international news in the way that the Post does. And the Post’s job isn’t to cover who won the high school football championship last weekend. Most important to remember is: there is a need for both of these.
People care about their local communities and about their nation and world. Newspapers should recognize their strengths and focus on them wholeheartedly. And, while they’re at it, realize how banding together might not be the worst thing in the world.
So a source of help for community papers comes from a place I never would have guessed. Newspapers banding together — in smart ways that benefit all parties — makes my heart smile.