Readers see value in community news


By Steve Key
Hoosier State Press Association

The results of a July survey show the majority of adult Hoosiers reads newspapers.

Three in four adults read a daily or Sunday printed newspaper in an average week. That’s according to an American Opinion Research study conducted for HSPA in cooperation with Indiana state legislators.

Surprised to hear good readership news at a time when so much gloom and despair are written about the future of newspapers?

Anyone who measures the value of newspapers to a community shouldn’t be surprised by strong readership.

Newsreaders gain value far in excess of the single copy price or subscription cost of their local newspaper.

What value to the reader do you place on these vital attributes:

• The democratic benefit of reporters attending meetings and reporting on the actions of school boards, town or city councils, county government and state agencies. Let’s not forget the Indiana General Assembly and trial and appellate courts.

The watchdog role of newspapers has helped save taxpayer dollars and discourage wrongdoing by those who represent us.

• The compilation of everyday community news. Whether it’s birth announcements, engagements, church dinners, civic club news or obituaries, nobody else puts all that information into the hands of readers.

• Business news impacting the community. Does anyone else do a better job of informing a community about openings of new businesses or the closing of others? Newspapers report on factory expansions and layoffs and put a human face to those impacted.

Newspapers also keep tabs on how local farmers are faring and the impact of weather, crop prices and other factors on their livelihood.

• The delivery of advertising messages from small local businesses, franchises and major retail corporations. Companies advertise because it drives sales.

While customers fast-forward through TV commercials or change channels to avoid radio spots, they continue to purchase newspapers not only for the news but advertising.

A recent survey found that eight in 10 (79 percent) of adults have taken action as a result of reading or seeing an ad in a print newspaper in the past 30 days (How American Shops and Spends 2014).

• The coverage of human-interest stories. Newspapers lead the way in telling heartfelt stories of people in need, causes that should be supported and heroes that should be heralded.

What newspaper hasn’t seen communities rallying to support a family or charitable cause once a newspaper has brought the story to their attention? I’ve seen gymnasiums filled with people, trucks filled with donations and volunteers coming forward in response to a newspaper story.

• The trumpeting of social issues that a community should address. Newspapers have set the stage for uncountable community debates on issues impacting the quality of life in a community.

Whether the subject is discrimination, health care, environmental issues, education or others, it’s newspapers that draw attention to these subjects.

I’ve heard the voices that say newspapers aren’t important anymore, that you can find everything on the Internet.

But it’s the newspaper that collates all of a community’s news and delivers it to readers in print or electronically in an easy-to-read format day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

Whatever price you put on a newspaper’s attributes, readers are surely getting a bargain.

Steve Key is executive director and general counsel for HSPA.