My former office neighbor and longstanding ad salesperson and operations manager, Sarah Morley, shared the following story of a recent encounter which helped boost our confidence.
“I was standing waiting to pay for my coffee and two ladies walked in and one lady immediately picked up our paper and said, ‘I love that they still have a hometown newspaper.’ She held it out to her friend and they continued to be in awe over the ‘beautiful’ front page photo. One woman recognized that it was a broadsheet and mentioned the great layout and font choices which made me think she was a newspaper person. She looked at me looking for my approval and I told her that I worked there. She said they were here visiting from Vermont and that they were fortunate enough to still have a small paper in their town. She continued to tell me how important they were for small communities.”
Yes, we hope you keyed on the word “fortunate,” because the past two decades have been hard on the newspaper industry. And the pandemic made the situation even worse as newspapers cut staffing when advertising revenue continued to dwindle as other businesses watched their incomes drop. It was a nationwide problem.
Also during the past two decades, newspapers have competed against Ecommerce and online shopping. Our paper has depended upon local advertising but many of the mid-sized dailies lost advertisements from the larger retail stores – many of whom closed because of online shopping.
According to a June 2022 report, The State of Newspapers, “The number of people employed in newspaper newsrooms has shrunk nearly 60% over the past 17 years. This means fewer reporters, fewer photographers and fewer editors. This means less coverage of local issues, businesses and sports.
“More than 100 local newspapers have closed during the pandemic alone. That's left 200 U.S. counties without a local newspaper – and 50% of all counties with only one.”
We combined our newspapers, Boothbay Register/Wiscasset Newspaper, in an effort to cut down on printing costs, which were also rising due to the increase in the cost of paper. We did other things to stay solvent and are still trying to rebound from the pandemic – as are others – and maintain being the best newspaper we can be with a smaller staff and less income from advertising – but thanks to the local businesses, that trend is improving.
The local support from readers and businesses is key to having a newspaper and we hope to hear more stories on the street about how fortunate we all are to have a hometown newspaper … your hometown newspaper.