The Optimist

The death of local news?

A look into how the world of journalism affects small-town communities

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Melissa Thomas, Staff Writer

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Although it may not always seem like it, small newspapers are vital to the communities they write for. Community newspapers not only act as a bridge to the outside world for many rural areas but also guarantee an element of credibility and creativity that is becoming increasingly hard for big-time newspapers to implement in their heavily competitive environment.

Due to the evolving market of online journalism, the US has lost one-fifth of its newspapers, with half of those lost writing from big cities like Boston, New York and Washington D.C. Small community papers, such as The Indiana Daily Student and Herald Times, in contrast are thriving in local news. The continual downsizing of big news corporations give small papers a virtual vacuum for more stories, while still maintaining the sense of reliability with the community that larger papers tend to lack.

“Small communities rally round their newspapers in ways that bigger ones do not, with rates of loyalty twice that of readers of national or regional papers.” researcher Penelope Muse Abernathy of UNC wrote.

The role of newspapers in communities and schools provide the eyes and ears for the general public, keeping the area from becoming a desolate ‘news desert.’ It is important that community members, especially students, stay well-informed about not only national and global news but local news as well.

Smaller newspapers rally a better sense of community by focusing on hyperlocal issues, encouraging pride and loyalty in the readers that keeps them coming back for more. Metropolitain papers are not interested in covering the humdrum of everyday community life, leaving the job up to local journalists and student writers who can focus on the most paramount issue for the average reader in their coverage area.

While bigger newspapers are struggling in the whitewash of competitors and heavy national news, rural residents can look toward their own catered newspaper for more personal and diverse stories. Local issues give readers more opportunity to take action and strive for a tangible change in the community, giving them a distinct and lasting advantage to their competitive counterpart. In the end, while journalism may be dying in the big cities, the silent success of small news corporations proves how news can impact the community it writes for.

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About the Writer
Melissa Thomas, Staff Writer

Having just returned to Bloomington after living overseas, Melissa is excited to start following some of the remarkable stories hidden in South.

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