It’s interesting and perhaps telling that just as I was sitting down tonight to write this blog on newspapers, Matt published his on the same medium. Gannett’s announcement today actually fits right into what I continue to lament: the continued shrinking of local news content.
Let’s start with this dynamic in its simplest form. When I first began in PR nearly 17 years ago, one of the most basic tactics in the field involved personnel announcements – writing and distributing a press release to the hometown paper of client news/accolades accompanied by their photo. Typically, within a week or so, the release and photo would run in the “People” section of the paper. Those, of course, were the days when this particular section ran in virtually every newspaper everyday. Today, you’re lucky if it runs once a week if at all.
Similarly, I recently spent time at an event with one of the area’s finest, long-time society writers. We both lamented the fact that the society pages are often a mere shadow of their former selves. Thinner papers mean less space for news overall and that is now comprised, more often than not, of reader-sought-after content related to the automotive industry and sports.
My contention, whether for local newspapers, television or radio, is that local content should remain king. When someone’s announcement and photo appear in the paper, what is the first thing that person does? Typically, they buy more copies. And then they tell their family and friends and they may well do the same. AP wire reports on national news we can get anywhere. And, if there’s no room in the physical paper, isn’t online space virtually limitless?
I would humbly suggest to the powers that be to not lose sight of what makes their medium stand out from all others. After all, doesn’t it follow that covering more of your readers more often will encourage readership?