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Community Newspapers Are A Growing and Vital Industry

Did you think the local newspaper industry was dead or dying? According to a recent study and New York Press Association (NYPA) campaign, your community weekly newspaper actually remains a primary way for people to get information that is important to them.

County Executive Edward P. Mangano was host last week to the publishers of Nassau’s local newspapers as he and NYPA Executive Director Michelle K. Rea celebrated the key role these papers maintain in the community and to acknowledge that the community newspaper industry is thriving - continuing to provide both an important source of employment and a major tax base throughout the state.

NYPA’s executive director is touring the state promoting the association’s “Told Ya” campaign, which reminds people that even in this turbulent and evolutionary period for media, community newspapers are growing in readership. “The ‘Told Ya’ campaign was created to counter the ‘doom and gloom’ publicity swirling around the newspaper industry,” Ms. Rea said.

In fact, New York’s community newspapers have experienced unprecedented growth during the past 10 years. More than 750 community newspapers, including 129 ethnic newspapers, with a combined distribution of 12 million, are published in New York.

In general, “More people read newspapers on a daily basis than watch the Super Bowl,” Ms. Rea added.

Her main message is that while everyone is hearing about the “death of newspapers,” she sees an important distinction: Some large daily papers are facing challenges, but local weeklies are experiencing a completely different situation. As some dailies have lost readers over the past decade to the Internet or TV, or have simply lost revenue as people switch from their print editions to their websites, there are actually more community newspapers than there were 10 years ago. Large newspapers, Ms. Rea pointed out, have taken on shareholders and gone into debt, even as their competition from other mediums was growing and their profits shrinking. On the flip side, community newspapers are mainly privately owned local businesses that have not taken on debt or shareholders. More importantly, there is still no rival for their audience.

Eighty-six percent of adults read community newspapers on a regular weekly basis, according to NYPA’s survey. Further, the community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 60 percent of survey respondents. A fraction of those surveyed use the Internet for their local news; in fact people are 10 times more likely to use their community newspaper, with only 5.8 percent of people saying they use the Internet for local news. Community newspapers’ audience is also four times greater than the second and third most popular sources of local news, which are TV (14 percent) and friends and relatives (13.4 percent). Less than 5 percent say their primary local news source is radio. Eighty-six million Americans read their community newspapers each week, said Ms. Rea.

“Community newspapers serve real, physical communities. They chronicle people’s lives, and alert citizens to the opportunities, threats, troubles, and joys in their community – providing the kind of news that has serious meaning in local households – the kind of news that can’t be found anywhere else. As long as physical communities exist, there will be a need for local newspapers to connect them,” said Ms. Rea.

As an important outlet for advertisers and elected officials, studies also show that people keep their weekly paper in the house until the next issue arrives. This means that multiple readers in a household are returning to the same issue several times throughout the week, gaining a large amount of exposure on important issues that people want publicized and for advertisements as well.

County Executive Mangano’s family has run a local printing business and his wife is a community newspaper publisher in Bethpage. He was supportive of local papers and spoke enthusiastically at the NYPA event. He called local newspapers a “vital asset” to the community, saying they are an important historical record for each community and the best source for information on local achievements and issues.

As he hosted the group on the Nassau County Courthouse steps, he said, “Local newspapers are the lifeblood of our communities. They advertise neighborhood stores and restaurants, celebrate the achievements of our neighbors and let us all get to know each other a little better. This is the kind of news only a local paper can give. It is so important that we not lose these important community assets so they can continue their great work in keeping us all informed about issue that directly affect us.”

He told the crowd that it is important for citizens to support their local papers, as not only an historical record, but as important local businesses and employers.

“Those who have dedicated their careers and their dollars to investing in local papers deserve our support,” he added.

If you are reading this, you are playing your part.