Monday, June 13, 2016

Editor and Publisher examines how rural newspapers have remained successful and relevant

Rural newspapers continue to thrive by providing local news and adapting to technological changes, Sharon Knolle reports for Editor and Publisher. Chip Hutcheson, president of the National Newspaper Association, told Knolle, "You don't hear about community newspapers going out of business. It's not the doom and gloom that major market papers face." Knolle looked at several rural newspapers to find their keys to success.

Billy Coleburn, editor of the weekly Courier-Record in Blackstone, Va., told Knolle, "Print is our lifeblood. For seven full-time employees, we rock 'n' roll down here." The Courier-Record has a circulation of 6,100, more than twice that of the town's population of 3,000. Heather Goodwin Henline, publisher of The Inter-Mountain in Elkins, W.Va., circulation 8,000, says likewise: "I think if you ask any newspaper, print still remains the lion's share of revenue."
That doesn't mean rural newspapers shy away from technology. They just have to find creative ways to keep up. Scott Matthew, senior advertising representative for the Courier-Record, told Knoll, "It has become nearly impossible as a weekly newspaper to cover breaking news in the social-media age, so we now concentrate on bringing our readers the most accurate story with lesser-known details we as a media source are able to obtain." Coleburn also said he sometimes uses technology, especially Facebook, to conduct interviews with people he is unable to reach in person or via phone.

But when it comes to rural areas, readers always want news about the community, something "only local news organizations can provide," Knolle writes. Henline told Knolle, "Perhaps our greatest advantage is we have content no one else does. We are at local sporting events. Little League coverage is vital content. Bigger competitors rarely have placed a significant value on such a hyper-local approach."

Doug Caldwell, publisher of the Petoskey News-Review in Michigan, told Knolle, "Our readership recognizes the value of the local newspaper. We are the cheerleader, guardian and watchdog all rolled into one. We monitor the pulse of the community and focus on local news stories of interest—not what we want, but what are readers want in their community newspapers."

Heline had similar sentiments, telling Knolle, "Newspapers are alive and well. We are relevant and vital to the communities we serve. Our future is paved with a path of services that continue to life and enhance the communities we serve and to provide the stories no one else can tell. Those are our stories, our people, our communities, our commitment. Ultimately, we have not abandoned them and I don't believe our readership will abandon us." (Read more)

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