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The North Shore News says community newspapers still matter

March 8, 2011

In the trend of local community reporters playing defence for their profession, Deana Lancaster of the North Shore News has a long piece on the continuing importance of print media, especially community papers.

Those who said newspapers were finished are finding themselves backpedalling. The old model is irreversibly changed, it’s true, and no one knows exactly what the new one will look like, but print is still here and it’s still relevant.

That is nowhere more accurate than it is in community news.

“One of the big terms being thrown around in media these days is ‘hyper-local,’ ” says George Affleck, general manager of the British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspapers Association. It’s an online buzzword that refers to fine-grained information about cities, towns, even neighbourhoods; information that’s interesting to both residents living there and advertisers trying to reach them. It’s all about relevance.

“That is exactly what community newspapers do,” says Affleck. “Community newspapers have been doing hyper-local since they opened.”

more…

As I started reading this, I thought it was just a happy promotional piece for community newspaper (sorry Deana). But the further in I got, the more I started nodding in agreement.

By the time I finished the following section, I was in total agreement with the gist of the piece.

“If there’s a model that needs to be fixed, let’s talk about that,” says Roberts.

To improve the bottom line, some of these major players have slashed budgets, cut staff and tightened editorial percentages across the board at their papers, regardless of performance. Meanwhile. independent newspapers have the advantage of being more nimble, responding quickly to a rapidly changing industry and can devote more resources to quality content and their online editions.

“The real challenge is to be part of these larger corporations . . . the problem is not that people don’t want and support newspapers,” concludes Roberts.

Unfortunately, she’s too right. The news that community newspapers provide is still important. Print is important (in part because it’s impossible to ignore a paper on your doorstep every week). Yet, advertising revenue has disappeared. Independent newspapers do seem to be better set up to deal with the future of the industry. And still, community newspapers aren’t going indie and probably never will.

Solutions? I have none and neither does Deana. We are, therefore we will continue to be. God help us.

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This blog had more visitors in February than any previous months. It’s still a one man show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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  1. March 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

    My only concern with this kind of discussion is that it focusses on the present. Yes, newsprint is still a vital platform for community news delivery but will it be in five years? Ten years? Part of struggle we’re facing these day is that we failed to seriously envision what the future would hold as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, HuffPo, smartphones, RSS feeds, the iPad, etc. etc., started pulling readers away from traditional printed products.
    Anyway, all of this reminds me of a quote from Michael Nielsen’s 2009 essay on the decline of industries: “If a person inside an industry needs to frequently explain why it’s not dead, they’re almost certainly wrong.”
    You can read his entire essay at http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/is-scientific-publishing-about-to-be-disrupted/
    -Catherine
    p.s. Keep up the great work here at B.C. Reporter Reporter! You’re providing a valuable service.

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