America needs newspapers.
And newspapers, now more than ever, need America.
Thomas Jefferson famously said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
So during National Newspaper Week, it must be noted the business model of newspapers has crumbled. A newspaper subscription has never covered the full cost of delivery. But the cost was augmented by advertising based on circulation numbers.
The model was challenged but survived radio. It was made more difficult by broadcast television.
But the Internet turned the model on its ear. People thought — falsely, it turns out — they could just turn on their computers and get free news. Newspapers became complicit in the idea by offering up news websites for free, believing advertising would follow.
It did not.
Yet most newspapers remain generally profitable, particularly in smaller towns.
In addition to the business hurdles, we face more in state legislatures.
States — including North Carolina — have been making attempts to pull legal advertising from newspapers. They argue, falsely, that governmental actions can be freely posted on their own websites, and people can access them that way.
They intentionally fail to note that newspaper websites remain the most viewed websites in communities. They fail to acknowledge laws that require public publishing of laws, meetings and regulations serve as a watchdog over government actions.
If government is going to have a meeting now, you can prove they published it by purchasing a newspaper and looking.
How can you prove if government fails to publish on its own website?
Further, in North Carolina, one of the priorities of this last legislative session was to improve high-speed access to rural areas. How can it be that government websites are the place to publish when folks in rural areas have little or no online access?
Newspapers serve a wide, general audience with multiple perspectives.
That makes for a healthier, stronger democracy.
Finally, we serve as the best sources of local information. Left-leaning and right-leaning national media won’t cover the Mebane City Council, the Alamance-Burlington school board, your kid’s football game or your grandmother’s obituary.
We don’t seek your love or affirmation.
Newspapers seek survival, and you seek information.
Let’s do that together.