You’ve read the headlines, probably sharing on social media: newspapers aren’t doing so well. Readership has been eroded by the internet, which provides anything you want, anytime you want–and for free. Newspapers are also online, but free is tough to beat. So now, look where it’s left us.
According to a recently released study by Texas A&M, Colorado State and Louisiana State universities, “the steady loss of local newspapers and journalists across the country contributes to the nation’s political polarization.”
An Associated Press story explains that, “With fewer opportunities to find out about local politicians, citizens are more likely to turn to national sources like cable news and apply their feelings about national politics to people running for the town council or state legislature, according to research published in the Journal of Communication.”
This trend is troubling. But, it should be no surprise. Journalism is the only profession mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and has been the backbone of discourse and information in civilized society for centuries. Radio and TV, as well as source-based internet journalism have their place, but newspapers play a particularly important and unique role:
- Cover significant stories that may not have a “fun visual”
- Present important subjects that readers may have overlooked
- Parse complex issues in understandable language from multiple, vetted sources
If you’re not at least skimming the newspaper most days, you’re missing out. No matter how you consume it, you should support it. Without a local newspaper, the community loses access and a voice — and dozens of other outlets lose a vital resource.
This brings us to a larger point. The influence on the electorate is really only one factor affected by a decline in newspapers’ autonomy, readership and journalistic people power. Newspapers enlighten and connect people with different perspectives. They help people learn and grow. Newspaper journalism moves businesses forward and helps drive the economy.
My appeal to you is simple: if you think access to information and diverse viewpoints with integrity and an adherence to journalistic standards matter as much as safe streets, educated children and poison-free foods, show support by subscribing to your local newspaper today. You can subscribe digitally only or print and online. I mix it up and read the print paper layout on my screen.
As a bonus, give a gift subscription to a young professional or an isolated relative. It will make you feel good and will make the world a better place. Really!
David Wyatt is vice president of account management with Elizabeth Christian Public Relations.