Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some rural publishers moonlight to keep papers going; some papers have a staff of one

We don't know of anyone who compiles data on the demise of rural weekly newspapers, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them are in the rural Midwest, particularly the Great Plains, where most counties have been losing population in recent decades. That includes much of Oklahoma, where Clinton Daily News Publisher Rod Serfoss wrote on the topic after becoming president of the Oklahoma Press Association.

"Call it lack of jobs, lack of trees, lack of rain, better birth control or the lack of sex, but the fact is that many rural communities in Oklahoma are dwindling," Serfoss wrote in a column distributed by the National Newspaper Association. "Some day, the number of rural community newspapers will shrink, not because of the decline of the newspaper industry but rather the decline of many rural Oklahoma towns."

To keep going, some small papers have been reduced to a staff of one, and some publishers have taken up additional lines of work, Serfoss reports: "The reality is that many rural papers are a one-person operation and the . . . more and more small-town publishers are doing other jobs to help subsidize the newspaper. It is not uncommon to see the weekly newspaper being produced after the day care is closed, with a person selling an insurance policy and a classified ad at the same time or operating an antique mall in the same office as the newspaper."

Serfoss wrote that he has "seen a closed sign on a paper's office so the publisher can make an ambulance call and at one point a publisher in southwest Oklahoma cooked breakfast at his restaurant every morning, operated his flower shop during the day and then found the time and energy to put out a newspaper. . . . The small weekly publisher has been forced to become creative in finding ways to keep the news coming to his or her community. I appreciate their commitment to do so and hope their readers understand how lucky they are to have someone who is committed to report the news and preserve the history of their town." (Read more)

1 comment:

Howard Owens said...

Why don't these publishers switch to online only?

Easy question in the abstract -- depends on the market.

But it would be interesting to look at the financial. I bet many of these papers could be more profitable as online only.