Community Newspapers' Demise A Reminder

Another day. Another piece of shocking news about the fate of media outlets.  This time, it’s word that five Metro Detroit community newspapers will go away at the end of May. That means not only the newspaper, but also coverage of those communities online will cease to exist in less than two months. This includes the oddly-named, but previously venerable, Birmingham Eccentric, which has covered its community since 1878.

For those outside the area, these are the papers that cover the school board meetings, the zoning disputes, the high school sports, the local events and the local people who accomplish things beyond the ordinary. One of the most indelible memories of the early days of my career is my appearance 19 years ago on the front page of the Eccentric, behind the board of WBFH-FM.

As with many of the cases of what’s happening with the media in the Detroit market, we expect this to be the beginning of a trend across the country.  And if you think having to read your national and regional news online instead of getting a paper at your doorstep represents a big change, think about living in one of the five communities where your longtime hometown connection to your news is disappearing.  There’s no answer to any of these questions:

-Who will cover what is perhaps your most important investment of tax dollars – your school district?  Unless there are board corruption charges, it probably won’t be your regional media.

-Who will cover the local elections, shedding light on your choice of candidates. Unless sign stealing is involved, it probably won’t be your regional media.

-Who will cover high school sports? Expect for the all-stars, it probably won’t be your regional media.

-Who will preview local events?  Unless they involve a celebrity, it probably won’t be your regional media.

As for PR strategy – we can’t emphasize this enough – it’s time for a new one that should include new platforms – that you control – and not just traditional media.