Friday, June 07, 2019

NNA, the only national lobby for community newspapers, deserves your support, says publisher of The Rural Blog

By Al Cross, Director and Professor
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

I got a bill yesterday that I was happy to get, and am happy to pay. It was a dues notice from the National Newspaper Association, the only national lobby for community newspapers. That's why I'm happy to pay it, and I wish more community newspapers would pitch in. NNA needs members.

Al Cross
Almost all community papers belong to their state newspaper association; it's close to home, lobbies on state-specific matters such as public-notice and open-government laws, and typically has an advertising service that brings revenue and a news and/or press-release service with news content.

But there are national issues that affect community papers, such as postal rates and delivery issues, federal open-government laws and advertising regulations, and, most recently, tariffs on Canadian newsprint that posed the greatest existential threat to to rural journalism and community newspapers in their history -- greater than the advents of radio, television, the digital revolution and social media.

NNA led the successful effort to kill those tariffs, one of its greatest victories ever. But at the same time, it was losing members, because the financial challenges that have plagued metropolitan newspapers for more than a decade are increasingly affecting community papers. NNA reported an operating loss in the last fiscal year, and had to cut back on staff and services -- at a time when community papers need all the help they can get.

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.

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