Wednesday, July 17, 2013
At the same time Oregon’s largest daily newspaper, The Oregonian, was scheming to reduce its delivery days from seven to four, it also was continuing with plans to launch neighborhood newspapers in the Portland suburbs of Forest Grove and Beaverton.
Hopefully the latter part of the sentence above will resonate with readers. Because newspapers aren’t going away, they’re just figuring out other ways to deliver the news.
It’s true that large, metro daily newspapers are decreasing staff and delivery days. But they’re also reinventing themselves, so to speak, by moving from print-based products to online entities. Similar shifts to fewer editions and more of an emphasis on digital have occurred in other metro newspapers in Detroit, New Orleans and Syracuse.
Yet, some of those same companies, as well as wealthy investors like Warren Buffet, are starting and/or purchasing smaller newspapers. There’s a future in the news business, especially where there is “more of a feeling of community,” Buffet recently told writer Howard Kurtz.
Buffet’s a smart man.
To be sure, the Hood River News and other community newspapers have branding challenges we need to address. We do our best not to get clumped in with our metro brethren. Yet, we’re facing some of the same issues as larger newspapers: shrinking classified revenue, an aging readership and the challenge of coming up with the right mix of content to appeal to print readers vs. those who prefer electronic mediums.
That relates to another important fact all of us in this business, large and small, must come to grips with: We no longer are simply newspapers. The News pushes information over the Internet, through social media and in print. We’re news gatherers and news disseminators.
But unlike the Oregonian and other larger newspapers, the News has never been the big dog in the room — that was never the goal. Our calling always was, and continues to be, to record what’s going on in our small corner of the world, Hood River County. It’s to write about the good and the bad; the births and deaths; the hawks and doves.
Our calling also is to help potential customers connect with local businesses — from large co-ops like Hood River Supply to family-owned shops like Hood River Jewelers.
Smaller newspapers like the News don’t have to answer to stockholders in far-away corporate board rooms. We answer to our readers and advertisers — most of whom are our neighbors. We are far from perfect; in fact our mistakes make easy fodder for naysayers. But that’s a small price to pay; truth be told, it keeps us on our toes.
In a similar way, that occurs when we remember two basic journalistic premises: No. 1, it’s the news that is important, not the news “paper.” And No. 2, that the news must remain independent and uncensored.
If we can continue to adhere to those principals we will remain legitimate; we will remain connected to the community. And that connection is of the utmost importance to us, whether it is made via a smartphone or by printing ink on paper.