From the publisher: Why our community newspapers matter
Last updated 11/12/2020 at 8:42am
Readers who have been following this story over the past few weeks know about our plan to switch our business model from a free newspaper to a digital-first subscription program.
Relying on advertising as our main source of income is no longer a sustainable path forward. Facebook, Google, and other tech behemoths in the social media ecosystem have taken much of that revenue away. We still believe advertising in your local news source is a better way to reach local consumers, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Regardless, we’re going in a new direction, offering 24/7 access on our website and weekly publication of the newspaper delivered by the U.S. Postal Service directly to your mailbox, all for less than $5 per month.
Avid newspaper readers haven’t wasted any time signing up, and for that we’re sincerely grateful.
But some of you may be waiting and wondering, “Can I live without the Beacon?” I suggest the right question is, “Should you live without the Beacon?”
Not surprisingly, I’d argue the correct answer is “No.” Let me suggest some reasons why community newspapers matter.
Ray Mosby, the award-winning editor of a weekly newspaper in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, said that, first and foremost, “community newspapers have the power to bring about great good and make a profound difference within their locales. And among the good ones, the ones who endure and even prosper, there is always to be found one common denominator – trust.”
There is an unwritten, implied contract between the Beacon and our readers. They feel they’re part owners, stockholders if you will, who rely on a simple precept: They trust us to do our very best to find the truth and tell it to them.
We don’t always make our readers happy. That’s not our job. But, despite the constant diatribes at the national level about “fake news,” in our little corner of the world we’re confident most regular readers believe we’re objective, fair, and honest.
We have to be. Otherwise, we’d lose that all-important trust you have in us. The Beacon is not some monolithic entity, and its editor isn’t some “big shot” handing down judgments from an ivory tower. We’re your neighbors.
We see you in church, the grocery store, and restaurants. We’ll stop and chat. When you call or email, we’ll answer. We value that trust you have given us, and the bond it has created between the Beacon and the community.
Community newspapers have been dropping like flies. The news industry has seen some 1,800 newspapers shut down since 2004. And when that happens, people turn to social media, cable TV, or other sources to find out what’s going on in their community. That’s not news – that’s gossip, or opinion, or simple baloney.
People are less informed, and studies have shown that when members of a community lose their “watchdog” community newspaper, they lose interest in their community. Elected officials are unleashed; too often, they run amok. The regional daily newspapers have cut their newsroom staffs, so they’re not likely to cover your city council or school board unless it’s some big, breaking story. Bad things happen when important stories slip under the radar.
And it costs a community money when it loses its local newspaper. Researchers from the universities of Illinois at Chicago and Notre Dame, examining the relationship between public finance and newspaper closures, found that municipal borrowing costs go up. Local governments included in the study ended up spending millions more in additional costs over two decades.
The reason that costs go up, the researchers found, was because “potential lenders have greater difficulty evaluating the quality of public projects and the government officials in charge of these projects.”
The study also found a correlation between newspaper closures and higher government wages and tax dollars per capita.
There are other reasons to support the Beacon, but we hope you’ll agree, based on the above reasons alone, a Beacon membership is an investment well worth making – for your community, for yourself.