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home : opinion : columnists April 29, 2016


5/29/2013 2:29:00 PM
The power of the printed word is still alive and well
Bill Forhan
Publisher

You have undoubtedly heard the word that newspapers are dead. Killed by the power of the Internet. You've seen the proof. The Seattle PI is now a shadow of its former self as an on-line only publication. The King County Journal, Rocky Mountain News, Honolulu Advertiser and many others are no longer publishing.

It is like the story of an airline crash. When a 747 crashes and kills hundreds of passengers - it's news. The old cliché of "if it bleeds it leads" has come back to haunt the national press. Without the perspective of the thousands of flights that end without incident every day, it is simply a dramatic story that tugs at the heartstrings. It does little to tell us about the benefits of flying or how flying is the safest form of transportation.

Not all newspapers are alike and stories about the failures of large impersonal dailies are not representative of all newspapers. Community newspapers across the country, just like the one you are reading today are experiencing a resurgence. The Internet is giving many of them new immediacy and new life.

Today what many consider our newest competitor, the Internet, provides small local newspapers with the means to provide breaking news stories, video, audio and links to other important news sources.

Without our local reporters the Internet is a Wild West of half-truths, rumors and unsubstantiated opinions. Without us you are forced to wander through that wild west of misinformation to find the stories that are most important to your daily life.

Have you ever noticed that many Internet "stories" are not dated or ever taken down? This means when you search for information about a current topic you are often buried with outdated and irrelevant stories.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not complaining or whining about the challenges we face. Many of us thrive on the adrenaline of a deadline. And all of us work hard to check our facts and provide you with information to understand the challenges and issues we all face.

We may not always get it entirely right. But we do not hesitate to make corrections and clarifications or to respond to your concerns. Our primary focus is on local news that no one else covers and sometimes our staff is stretched far too thin in trying to cover all of the local news that we need to cover.

In the words of Cheryl Wormley, one of my fellow weekly publishers in Illinois and President of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, "Community newspapers are doing well because people want to read about the actions of their town councils and local school boards, the results of high school sporting events and what's happening in the business community. Readers turn to community newspapers for public notices, for obituaries and police reports and for engagement, wedding, anniversary and birth announcements. They expect keen and thoughtful editorials, as well as a forum for their own opinions - letters to the editor. They read the advertisements, look at every photo and clip articles and photos to post on bulletin boards and hang on refrigerators."

Do newspapers have a future? In 2012, legendary investor Warren Buffet bought 60 community newspapers. He is quick to point out that community newspapers have a bright future as long as they remain dedicated to the life of the communities they serve.

We here at NCW Media are dedicated to the small rural communities we try to cover with our limited but talented staff. There are many nights when our reporter is the only one in attendance at the city council or school board meeting, but there are also times when our staff is spread too thin to cover every event.

Your input and feedback is always welcome. We believe that what we do is vitally important.

We also understand fully the issues that our advertising customers face. Most of them are simply looking to get their message out in the most cost effective manner. We hope you will support them. They support us so you can have those photos of your favorite local sports team competing with their rivals down the road or for state accolades in Cheney, Yakima, Tacoma or wherever the state competition is held.

If you have photos of your own to submit or local story ideas, don't hesitate to give us a call, we will endeavor to find time and the time and the room to cover it.

After all, we really are your local newspaper.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or publisher@leavenworthecho.com.





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