Big metro paper closures grab headlines, but it is the loss of the local paper that hurts the most
While a quarter of US daily newspapers that were publishing in 1950 are now shuttered, an unknown number of small town weekly papers have disappeared in the past few decades
The loss of yet another newspaper somewhere is always painful, at least for us newspaper veterans and news junkies. But it is the loss of the local, small town paper that probably hurts the most.
I was reminded of this when reading of the demise of the Fisher View, a weekly paper serving its community just north west of Champaign, Illinois (home of the University of Illinois.
The paper was started up by Julie Thomas – and was not that old – started up first as the Fisher Outlook by Thomas and her husband. Following a divorce, Thomas started up a competing paper, the Fisher View. Her husband left town, which mean the Outlook closed down. Then the third competing paper, The Fisher Reporter, closed down in 2014.
That means that the small town of about 1,900 residents have had, at one time or another, three papers serving them in the recent past. Now they have none.
“I hate the fact they’ve had a paper for 100 years and now they don’t,” Thomas told the Dave Hinton of the Rantoul Press, a community newspaper owned by the News-Gazette.
The News-Gazette itself is one of those rarities these days, a paper not owned by one of the big chains, but by a local family that also owns three area radio stations.
I have never worked for a paper that has closed down, though every single paper I’ve ever worked for has closed down since I left working there (I’d like to think this is no coincidence, but I doubt it). Hearst closed down the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1989, Copley closed down the Santa Monica Outlook in 1998, and MediaNews Group closed down The Valley Times in 2011.
Each of those closures meant fewer journalists working, as well as all the advertising and support staff. But it is the local communities that are most effected. The Los Angeles Times is never going to cover Santa Monica as well as the Outlook did.
But it is even smaller communities where the loss of the local newspaper most hurts. Gone will be the coverage of its schools and local sports, businesses no longer can afford to advertise and compete against the area Walmart. These papers were often simply a labor of love for someone in the community, not a serious business venture – though they were no doubt full-time efforts to produce.
Feature photo (home page): by Dave Hinton/Rantoul Press