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Newspapers remain a vital part of communities

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

As the story goes, American author Mark Twain had that reply when asked by a reporter about rumors of Twain’s death.

The sentiment behind Twain’s quote is equally as valid today in response to those who would claim newspapers are a dying industry that will soon go the way of gas lamps and dodo birds.

The latest round of pundits sounding the death knell of newspapers got their prompting from the announcement that billionaire investor Warren Buffet was selling his 31 newspapers and that the McClatchy Company publishing group, owner of the Miami Herald and other major papers around the country, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. These doomsayers point to this as being the writing on the wall that newspapers’ days are numbered.

This is hogwash.

Men and women in newsrooms around the country work night and day to help push back the darkness of ignorance and corruption. Reporters tell the stories of their communities from the benefit held for a child battling cancer to why the local hospital went on lockdown on a Sunday afternoon and calling elected officials to account for the latest round of tax increases and service cuts.

Newspapers sew together the fabric of a community. They celebrate the triumphs such as the winning of a conference basketball title and share in the mourning of dear friends who have passed on. It is the place where achievements are noted and where people are held accountable for their actions.

The relationship between readers and community newspapers is one built on trust. This trust is earned in every story of every issue and is reflected in the passion that reporters have in exposing those who would seek to undermine the community.

There is little doubt that newspapers big and small are facing pressure due to an increasingly fractured media marketplace. It is likewise true that there has been an unprecedented amount of consolidation and corporatization of newspaper organizations.

Of these two, the second is the far more insidious when it comes to the long-term viability of newspapers. Corporate newspaper giants like Gannett and Gatehouse answer to absentee stockholders who demand a steady profit stream with little regard on how it is achieved. This leads to cookie-cutter products and near-empty newsrooms.

While the headlines are crowded with teeth-gnashing about the demise of bigcity dailies, locally owned, independent community newspapers are continuing to play a vital role in their communities. They are the trusted source of news and information that cuts through rumors and speaks the truth, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable to hear.

Newspapers, like any business, must change with the times as can be reflected in the many ways that news is being delivered. What does not change is the mission newspapers have to serve as watchdogs and recorders for the communities we serve.