|This was the last home of the Waynesville Daily Guide. (AP photo)|
The story's central basis is the University of North Carolina's finding that about 1,400 U.S. cities and towns lost newspapers from 2004 through 2015. Most of those were weeklies in suburban areas and non-county-seat towns, especially in areas like the Great Plains that have been losing population. But the story's object example is a county in south-central Missouri that lost its daily paper in September. The example may seem inapt, but is forward-looking, because the Waynesville Daily Guide was closed by GateHouse Media, one of the private-equity firms that have bought hundreds of American newspapers and have a bottom-line focus.
"The death of the Daily Guide raises questions not easily answered, the same ones asked at newspapers big and small across the country," Bauder and Lieb write. "Did GateHouse stop investing because people were less interested in reading the paper? . . . Or did people lose interest because the lack of investment made it a less satisfying read?" A local pastor told AP that he stopped subscribing because “there wasn’t as much information that really made it worthwhile.”
“Losing a newspaper is like losing the heartbeat of a town,” Waynesville banker Keith Pritchard told AP, which reports, "The bank routinely checked the Daily Guide’s obituaries to protect against fraud; Pritchard said you’d be surprised by family members who try to clean out the accounts of a recently-deceased relative."
Local police "unanimously express dismay at the loss of a newspaper," AP reports. "Pulaski County Sheriff Jimmy Bench wishes the Daily Guide was there to report on the December death of his 31-year-old son, Ryan, due to a heroin overdose. It would have been better than dealing with whispers and Twitter. . . . Without a newspaper’s reporting, Police Chief Dan Cordova said many in the community are unaware of the extent of the [drug] problem. Useful information, like a spate of robberies in one section of town, goes unreported. Social media is a resource, but Cordova is concerned about not reaching everyone. . . . Coroner Nick Pappas said readers are more suspicious of news releases than they would be of a fully reported news story."