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.
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 residents say their news media coverage is from the closest city. That is true for us in Orange County where the television, radio and daily newspaper coverage is centered in Charlottesville or Fredericksburg. However, at the Orange County Review 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 and Instagram—and we’re in the community, from a new business ribbon cutting to a Montpelier event to court to community benefits 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 Orange County Review 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 that cares about your community and call us for a subscription.
— This editorial was excerpted from the Greene County Record.