Would you spend less than sixty cents a day to know what’s going on in your community?
Most people would. That’s the approximate cost of an average home delivered American newspaper. It costs less than most anything Americans splurge money on. Less than a soda. Less than a hot dog. Less than a bag of chips.
So why aren’t Ameicans making this small investment? Because they’re bombarded, daily, with the message that newspapers are dying. They read about newspapers cutting days of service, cutting staff, cutting pay, and they go elsewhere for their news.
What’s so amazing about this: media companies, the ones that inform the public, have lost the debate on the importance of newspapers. They have let the negative message overtake them, and now they’re playing defense instead of offense.
It’s time to go on the offensive.
Newspaper companies need to be more like PBS. Public broadcasting does a masterful job of telling its users why it’s important. Newspapers need to do the same. We need to list, point by point, all of the good we do a community — and that goes beyond the stories that inform. We need to tell people that we contributed money to local arts groups and support local programs. We need to tell them about the free ad space we give to local non-profits. We need to tell them about the stories we do on boy scouts, the kid with cancer, the triumph over adversity, the stories that describe, in vivid detail, the fabric of community.
And about those stories. We need to tell them what they’ve learned. I’m an avid reader of the New York Times, and on a recent Sunday, I was reminded that the economic downtown in American effects children in Haiti, since their fathers have lost their jobs here and can’t send money back home. I read an indepth piece of he importance of Joe Biden in the Obama administration. And I learned about Sprit Airlines revenue model and the lessons others are learning about it.
Newspapers are not good at shameless self-promotion. But they need to be. Tell people why we matter. Because a strong newspaper is the basis for a string digital presence. Once can’t be a strong without the other.