Let’s work toward localities that want the newspapers they need

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Returning from a vacation can be a little tough. There’s the time change, the travel exhaustion, unpacking, and sorting through memories—it takes a little time to get acclimated back at home. But when I recently returned from Austin, Texas I had a different experience. That’s because I was in Austin for the Newspaper Association Managers national conference.

East Central Texas is in the Central Standard time zone, so the time change wasn’t really an issue—what I was really facing was processing the myriad of ideas and programs I learned about while networking with my fellow executive directors.

The Hoosier State Press Association has long been a stalwart advocate and legal resource for our members, but as your new executive director I hope to expand the services and opportunities we provide in order for all of our newspapers to navigate a paradigm shift in the newsroom. The NAM conference was certainly a place to shape those ideas.

One common theme throughout the conference was helping our members transition to online platforms by building websites and changing the legal definition of a newspaper.

One common theme throughout the conference was helping our members transition to online platforms by building websites and changing the legal definition of a newspaper. It’s a widely accepted fact that newspaper will largely be online in the decade or two, but I started to consider about what that means for Indiana, in our own unique landscape.

Because it’s not just about considering national trends, but what is effective and necessary within our own communities—it’s about understanding the challenges that are specific to our state, not just our industry. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that; not to say that these issues are singular to Indiana, but that we are facing certain challenges that perhaps more urban states do not. That is the Rural issue. I capitalize it, for those AP sticklers, because it is a capital R problem.

As a largely rural state, Indiana is tasked with providing an infrastructure for modern life in locations that do not have the foundations to support it. One of the biggest issues is a lack of broadband access across the state, a fact that directly affects how effective digital newspapers would be here in Indiana. But more broadly a lack of broadband is indicative of a lack of amenities that attract and sustain the demographic group that is more likely to consumer newspapers. It is a cyclical issue, without people there are fewer newspapers but without newspapers our communities suffer.

So perhaps instead of considering just the addition of websites for all our members—and don’t get me wrong I think that’s a worthwhile discussion—we need to develop a broader policy perspective. A policy perspective that includes a school-to-newsroom pipeline, cultivating communities of culture, and enabling reader participation so that we are growing the kind of localities that want, not just need, newspapers.

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