I used to buy a local paper when we traveled so I could learn more about the community we were visiting. But in recent years it has become rare to find one. I now know why. Local papers have become an endangered species. Since 2006, one-third of U.S. papers have disappeared, and tens of thousands of local reporters have lost their jobs.
As a result, many people don’t know what’s going on in their own communities. These places often see a drop in government accountability and voter participation, and a rise in taxes. Recently, local papers have aided epidemiologists by providing accurate information about local outbreaks of the virus.
At the dawn of the digital age, the industry made a very bad business decision when publishers set up digital platforms that were free and assumed the money from advertising would continue to flow. It did not. Ad revenue dropped by 70% between 2005 and 2018.
The trend started with Craigslist and eBay, but it was Google and Facebook that dealt the worst blows. Advertisers love those powerful search engines that can target customers.
We in DeKalb are fortunate to still have a good local paper, but it is slimmer and comes out less often these days.
There is no one remedy for the ills that have beset the local newspaper business. But there is one thing that would help -- a lot. More subscribers.
I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.