Several weeks ago while participating on a media panel with several other editors from the region, I was asked if I thought newspapers would be dead in five years. Like the other editors, I said of course not, a statement I believe to be true, especially for community newspapers such as The Explorer.
Another hefty source backed up the position I, and many other colleagues, have just last week when Warren Buffet spoke out in favor of the hyper-local community newspaper.
Warren Buffett is one of America’s most respected and wealthiest businessmen. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. has a market capitalization of $250 billion and employs 288,000 people. It has holdings in everything from auto insurer Geico to railroad operator Burlington Northern to See’s Candies.
In his statement to stockholders recently, Buffett said, “Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town—whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football—there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.”
Community news will always hold a special place in my heart. It is how I started my career, and I will likely stay in similar positions through the end. It’s important to cover the local town councils, let the public know about major issues coming up for a vote, telling the public about a local resident who is using his military skills to stop rhino poaching (read next week for the story), or updating the public on issues that are important to them.
While a community may be small, the stories from within in it never stop.
“News, to put it simply, is what people don’t know that they want to know,” Buffet said. “And people will seek their news – what’s important to them – from whatever sources provide the best combination of immediacy, ease of access, reliability, comprehensiveness and low cost. The relative importance of these factors varies with the nature of the news and the person wanting it.
“Before television and the Internet, newspapers were the primary source for an incredible variety of news, a fact that made them indispensable to a very high percentage of the population,” said Buffett.. “Whether your interests were international, national, local, sports or financial quotations, your newspaper usually was first to tell you the latest information. Indeed, your paper contained so much you wanted to learn that you received your money’s worth, even if only a small number of its pages spoke to your specific interests. Better yet, advertisers typically paid almost all of the product’s cost, and readers rode their coattails.”
Much of that has changed over the years. The Internet provided a much larger source for classifieds, making it tougher for newspapers to stay in the market. The Internet also started the news 24/7 phase, which meant holding a story for a week, or even a day, just made it old news.
However, even in tough times, a community newspaper has survived because they are indispensable. So, as I said in the beginning, newspapers are not going anywhere, especially your community newspaper.