The value of community newspapers

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In this day and age, each of us who are lucky enough to have a job will think about how secure that job is from time to time. With newspapers across the country suffering, it is a well known fact that print journalists, myself included, consider ourselves lucky to still be putting together stories and publishing a newspaper. Job security fears grow when you hear younger community members state that they don't read the newspaper.

"Rural Missouri" did something special this month. They chose to publish a guest column written by Thad Requet, Shelbina Weekly editor and publisher. If you have not yet read this column, I would encourage you to turn to page 5 of the July issue and take a moment to read Requet's words.

I know that I am partial to community newspapers, such as the Shelbina Weekly and the Cassville Democrat, but I also believe that if many of our community members who have stated that they do not read the newspaper would read Requet's words with an open mind it might change their opinion on the importance of local print media.

Community newspapers do many things throughout the year that contribute to their local areas. For instance, each January, the Cassville Democrat partners with several local businesses to host a First Baby Contest, which gives an assortment of gifts to the family of the first baby born in Barry County. The newspaper also gives parents throughout the county an opportunity to announce the birth of their babies any time throughout the year.

In May, we publish the photos of each graduating senior from Barry County. Throughout the summer, readers looking for information on Fourth of July or other summer events can find that information in the local newspaper. We take time to attend many of those events to take photos and capture memories for the community. In the fall, we publish back-to-school information to inform area parents about the approaching school year, and in the winter we attend many area Christmas parades and events to help share our community's holiday spirit.

The Cassville Democrat staff takes time to gather candidate questionnaire information before contested elections. This information is published in the newspaper to help area residents become acquainted with candidates in order to make a more informed decision when casting their votes. The staff also attends area council, school board, health department and other meetings to keep area residents informed about local governmental agencies.

Community newspapers give area residents space to publish information about upcoming events, photos of reunions and engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements. We also take time to attend local sporting events and recognize the achievements of area athletes. Space is reserved in each issue of the newspaper to honor the accomplishments of local students who excel academically, and we publish the legal notices and court records of the county.

Yes, we do all of these things because it is our job, but we also do these things because we care about our community, and we want to make sure our readers have the news, information and photos they want and need. It is heartbreaking to hear community members say they do not read the newspaper and to know that they are missing out on so much valuable information about their local community.

Radio and television stations from southwest Missouri may cover prison breaks and state championships that occur in Barry County, but they don't have the space or the desire to publish information about our annual festivals and barbecues. The Internet might keep readers informed about state and national issues, but it doesn't contain valuable information about monthly school board and health department meetings that occur in our county. Even though some people might say that the day of the weekly newpaper is over, Requet and I agree that local newspapers are still valuable to small communities like ours.

Lindsay Reed