Despite digital age, traditional newspapers still relevant

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Newspapers connect and help build sense of community

With the masses turning to their smart phones more often to read the news, there are still those who prefer to get their news the old fashioned way -- by reading the paper version over their morning coffee.

Three centuries after the first newspapers were printed the industry has come a long way, evolving until the current modern digital age, when electronic and social media now offer many options by which people may get their news. Even so, local patrons make a case for traditional newspapers.

"I think it's your go-to resource for people within the local community," said Reagan Bluel, Extension dairy specialist for Barry County. "And I think the biggest benefit of having a local newspaper is it connects you to your community, and that's where I find the most value of a local newspaper."

Bluel said she typically reads the news published in the Cassville Democrat and The Monett Times online.

"With my generation, I often reach for the electronic version," she said. "It helps me keep in touch with both communities."

Bluel said the newspaper helps the Extension inform the community about its programs.

"It helps as resource and tool to disseminate our programming options," Bluel said. "And, it helps us be able to reach a diverse audience and promote the educational events we have available."

Richard Asbill, superintendent for the Cassville school district, said despite multiple digital communication platforms, newspapers are still very important to a community.

"The ability of our community to pick up printed information and have access to events (past, present, and future), still brings an important part of information access to our patrons," he said.

They are also important to schools, Asbill said.

"Schools in Barry County need access to newspapers as they attempt to provide information, promote students success, inform about events, and provide information about relevant community events that occur within or about the school," he said. "Wheaton, Southwest, Purdy, Exeter, Shell Knob, and Cassville schools are all at the center of their respective communities, which means providing information to our patrons is very important."

Asbill said he still likes reading the paper version of the newspaper, but there is no denying the digital market has drastically changed how people access information.

"The world is changing, sometimes around us and sometimes right on top of us, and our access to information and communication platforms has to change to those times and needs," he said. "Cassville schools started adjusting our communication platform about five years ago, with the goal of providing information to our community, parents, and alumni in a platform that would meet each members individual needs. So, we use Twitter, Facebook, our website, newspaper, newsletters, e-newsletters and phone calls to reach our members.

"We have to remember that our community is very diverse. For example, while Facebook has changed our daily approach to conversations, it still is nice for a parent or grandparent to see an article about their local school and better yet, a picture and story of their child [in the newspaper]."

Asbill noted one vice to online information.

"Too much of the information today lacks the accuracy that we used to rely on, and in some ways, newspapers, more importantly local newspapers, still provide that feeling of reliable information," he said.

According to the Extension, newspapers help build a sense of community.

"A sense of community is vital to a healthy community and is needed to get residents involved with initiatives and institutions and an improved quality of life," said David Burton, Extension civic communication specialist. "There are new online tools that connect people, but a local newspaper that has the community's interest at heart is an important tool for improving a sense of community. The institution of a community newspaper deserves our time, our subscriptions and our ad dollars, especially in rural areas. The end result will be good for our community and for your family."

Burton said current research on rural and urban communities has found that a sense of community is a major factor in development and growth. He added that a newspaper helps contribute to a sense of community by providing contact information for community leaders, clubs and organizations, providing information about community services and institutions like government, schools and churches and information about local events and festivities.

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