Newspapers need to promote value of local news

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Key Points: Steve Key, executive director and general counsel, Hoosier State Press Association

Newspaper people need to become evangelists for the importance of local journalism.


Pew Research has shown a dwindling number of people who cite print as their primary news source. This doesn’t mean newspaper content is falling by the wayside, since most newspapers are sharing stories through their websites and social media.


My concern is whether Hoosiers understand that the content is created by their local newspaper and whether a growing number of Hoosiers are mentally checking out on local news, focusing on national headlines.


If readers don’t connect that online or Facebook story with your nameplate, it’s going to be tough sledding to convince those readers to subscribe to your newspaper. And worse, if they have quit reading stories about their community – be it government, business, sports, or feature stories, then the quality of your content becomes irrelevant.

…commit to taking advantage of speaking opportunities to remind everyone that it’s your staff covering the police, municipal and county governing bodies, school boards, the courts, high school sports … features on interesting people in the county.

The value of local news used to be a given. The Welcome Wagon pointed new homeowners toward the newspaper with subscriber information. If one didn’t read the newspaper, they didn’t really know what was happening in that community.


That’s not the norm now, but I see opportunity if our industry is willing to promote itself.


I’ve heard from several publishers that overall readership increased during the pandemic. In most counties, it was the local newspaper that was the sole, trusted source of how COVID-19 was impacting one’s community.


It was local journalists who pushed Gov. Holcomb’s administration to start reporting on the impact of the coronavirus on nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where the majority of deaths occurred.


Barring a variant of the virus setting us back, Indiana is moving toward its new normal. Newspapers don’t want to see readership decline at this point.


So promote your news product and how it can be obtained by your community. Yes, you are all doing more with less, but commit to taking advantage of speaking opportunities to remind everyone that it’s your staff covering the police, municipal and county governing bodies, school boards, the courts, high school sports and features on interesting people in the county. It’s your staff most likely to dig into issues that need to be addressed through some investigative reporting.


Celebrate and share how your staff was honored by HSPA’s Better Newspaper Contest.


Use other media to promote your newspaper or website content. If your potential readers aren’t on your website or subscription list, you have to go find them even if it means spending money with a competitor.


Consider holding an event to draw potential readers. Carve out some time during that event to talk about the value of journalism and encourage your audience to support the continued vitality of the local newspaper.


If you’re not willing to invest the time and resources to spread the good news about newspapers, who else do you expect to do it.

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