Director and Professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
The main lobbying organization for community newspapers in the United States recorded a big loss in the 2017-18 fiscal year, just as it was fighting an ultimately winning battle against tariffs that spiked the cost of newsprint. The papers' second biggest cost is printing.
In its annual report to members, the National Newspaper Association reported operating revenues of $867,436 and total operating expenses of $1,033,803, for a loss of $166,366. "Membership was hit hard by a decrease in revenue of $150,137," NNA reported. "Since 2007, membership revenue has decreased 10 out of the past 12 years. In 2007, membership revenue was $963,447, dropping to this year’s level of $579,724." The report did not reveal the number of members.
|Data from Penny Abernathy, U. of North Carolina; chart by BBC|
I also believe that the tariffs were the greatest single existential threat to rural journalism and community newspapers in their history, greater than the advents of radio, television, the digital revolution and social media. That is not to discount the latter two threats, to which many community newspapers have not adequately adapted. But as they deal with those challenges and diminished resources, I hope they realize that their businesses may have been saved by NNA, and that they should support it with their membership dues. I do, as an associate member.
No other organization fights such battles at the national level for rural and community newspapers and the journalism they provide. The tariff fights shows that these issues go beyond the often complex dealings with the U.S. Postal Service, which is increasingly used by community dailies for delivery. NNA is largely a weeklies' organization, but dailies need to support it, too. It stands for newspapers, journalism and their essential roles in democracy. All papers should be members.