Newspaper reporters—and to a lesser extent editors—are not great salespeople. Usually, the sales side of the business—advertising, classifieds, digital, subscriptions—are kept separate from the editorial side of newspapers.
There’s a great reason for it, we don’t want the influence of advertising dollars impacting our coverage of important news for our neighbors. However, it’s also a little bit because we just aren’t great at selling ourselves. And that’s probably why only 14 percent surveyed in a recent poll paid for local news in the past year—through a subscription, donation or membership.
The Pew Research Center polled nearly 35,000 U.S. adults for its state of the media survey, noting that three out of four believe local news outlets—TV, radio and newspapers—are in good financial shape. Often, that’s not the case. There’s an interesting catch-22 tied into this: newspapers, especially, have had hard-hitting layoffs in the past 20 years shrinking their ability to deep dive into important stories which causes readers to say there isn’t enough local news to justify a subscription to the newspaper. It’s a lose-lose for residents.
We are often asked to delve deep into what could be incredibly important stories for our local community. However, investigative journalism takes time and resources, financial and human. It’s even more than the cost of a salary, which according to a Pew Research poll in 2018, nearly 79 percent of newsroom employees have at least one college degree but are paid much less than the U.S. median average for those who have similar education. There are often fees to obtain the documentation necessary to prove the facts behind a story, something that isn’t usually allocated in a newsroom’s budget.
The Pew Research poll also noted that many rural residents across the country say local news is very important, but they aren’t seeing it in their newspapers. Roughly 57 percent of rural U.S. residents say their news media coverage is from the closest city. That is true for us in Greene County where the television, radio and daily newspaper coverage is centered in Charlottesville. However, at the Greene County Record we make it a point to only cover the local community, and that’s the way we like it.
We are on social media—Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram—and we’re in the community, from a new business ribbon cutting to a special farm day to court trials to government meetings. When local newspapers die, the cost of government borrowing increases, according to a Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business poll from last year. Think about it, how often are there other media outlets beyond the Greene County Record at local supervisors, planning commission or school board meetings? Who would take on that job if we no longer existed? At meetings, we often hear residents speak in public session—or even as they’re walking out the door— that they didn’t know about an important vote or hearing. Yet, it had been covered in both the reporting and advertising sections of our newspaper.
We think it’s time you take advantage of the blessing of a local media outlet for our rural area. One that cares about your community as much as you do. Call us for a subscription.