National Newspaper Week: celebrate with us

You probably all have made arrangements for the weekend to celebrate, or at least plan to gather as a family, or maybe called a friend to go out for a nice dinner — afterall, it’s National Newspaper Week.

Yes, we have our own week, when we can stand up and shout over the giant, loud presses that we STILL print newspapers. Regardless of what you might hear on TV or read in the blogosphere, newspapers are still being printed, picked up, consumed, and then recycled — without any batteries or a special “app” needed.

But that doesn’t keep so many from debating the future, or lack thereof, of newspapers. I imagine nearly everyone has a 20-something in their lives, someone who likely doesn’t give a rip about their community news (or their community in general, for that matter) and professes that “No one under 40 reads newspapers.”

I’ll spare you the industry back-and-forth about the Internet, technology, youth and newspapers. But when you hear that newspapers are dead, don’t buy it. The majority of country’s newspapers, especially the smaller, community newspapers, aren’t going away any time soon. Mainly because of the simple tenet that advertisers want eyes, and the public still wants information — so the relationship between advertisers and newspapers remains strong.

Plus, we’re pretty darned resilient as an industry, adept at adapting. And when we’re at our best, we can be pretty amazing — maybe even a town’s spirit and backbone. And that’s what National Newspaper Week is really about.

Back when I first started at the Pioneer in the ’90s, I attended a conference back East and met a guy who had grown up in his family’s newspaper business. They owned a small paper in Tennessee that had long had the monicker “We Scream.” It was a coal-mining community. When they began covering news about environmental and health concerns regarding the local industry, the local industry hit back. Someone even went the distance of burning down the newspaper building.

Instead of shying away, fearing what might happen next, the paper didn’t miss an issue, just produced it off site and got it to readers on regular publication day.

However, there was a small change to the paper. It had a new slogan above the masthead: “We STILL Scream.”

There’s a great example closer to home of a community newspaper standing up as the voice of reason and sanity of a community, and also sticking its neck out. A few years ago, a white supremacists group wanted to establish a beachhead in John Day via some real estate purchases. The newspaper there, the Blue Mountain Eagle — I believe an all-female staff for that paper serving a community of ranchers and loggers — was quick to lead the effort to convince the group to leave town before they thought about unpacking bags. The paper organized demonstrations, printed front-page editorials, and stood up to be quoted by outside, national news organizations. The community, supplied with information and inspired to show their best and bravest selves, rallied with the newspaper. The white supremacists organization went away.

Newspaper people love to hear the expression (usually spoken by a journalist) that a community is only as good as its newspaper. I also think the reverse is true. A newspaper can only survive, and hope to thrive, if a community embraces and supports it. The Pioneer has always enjoyed that support.

Lacking in many areas that financially carry most papers — a ton of inserts, a robust real estate industry, a substantial, consumer-goods retail community — we have to hustle and battle to stay economically viable. Not long ago, we followed a national trend to price our community paper at $1 per copy. I figured the paper was more valuable than a Snickers bar, which had gone over a buck at most stores. We lost a few weekly buyers, I’m sure chasing a few readers toward our free website. But, when the dust settled, the Madras Pioneer still had a greater per edition circulation than the papers serving the larger towns of Prineville and Redmond — and both of those papers charge but 50 cents.

To me, that says a lot about the community we endeavor to serve, and the support they give to us.

Thank you.

So, for sure, do something special to mark this National Newspaper Week — and please, continue to enjoy your community newspaper. Know that we STILL print newspapers and we’re dedicated to putting out an interesting, relevant, and entertaining paper each week.




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