When I was a kid, long ago, people read the local newspaper. And by ‘people,’ I mean everyone. Something on the order of every household in the nation read the local paper, even people who didn’t read the paper themselves were talking over local news with people who did.
But that was long ago, and newspaper circulation has faded to only a tiny portion of the community. You can look up the numbers for yourself: daily circulation of local newspapers is only a small fraction of the number of households. News coverage on television networks is similarly faded into a shadow of its reach decades ago.
What explains the decline in circulation? I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and decided first and most importantly not to bother calling anyone out for problems, in part because it’s not likely to be very productive but mostly because it doesn’t help and therefore doesn’t really matter. The numbers speak for themselves, res ipsa loquitur, as the Romans would put it. Whatever journalists are doing, however they’re doing it, whatever they think about the work they’re doing, it’s being largely ignored by most people — when it’s not being actively rejected by still others.
What’s really going on is this: people are not finding any real value in what newspapers are trying to sell, and people do not waste their money or their time on things they find of no value.
Every community has a huge need for a service that only a local newspaper can provide. People will pay good money if you provide that service because they will get tremendous value from that service. And that service will go a long way to making the community thrive in every way you can imagine.
What is that service? And how is it different from what newspapers do already? That’s what this series (which is intended to be published as a book when complete) is about.
About me: For most of my professional life people have looked to me to find out things they need to know in order to understand their situation, make decisions and take action. I know the challenges and difficulties in finding information, vetting sources, making sense of apparently contradictory facts, and presenting what I learn in ways that make good sense while remaining true to the sources and respecting the good sense of my audience. And I know what it is to be appreciated for honesty and candor, even when I am the bearer of seemingly bad news or am unable to provide clarity or certainty because there is none of either to provide.
I want to share what I know in order to make America a nation of informed citizens, united by a common awareness of their common situation and mutual respect for diverse perspectives on that situation, supported by thriving, engaged and energetic local newspapers. Any objections?
Installments in the series:
- Newspapers can save the world — really!
- A newspaper that people will pay for
- Earning your keep by keeping watch over the community
- Providing overwatch for all the important things
- Your readers need to know they can count on you