If the News-Graphic were to disappear, would you miss us?
My belief and hope is the answer to that question would be, “yes.” Of course, some people may rejoice, but my belief is most of Georgetown would miss us.
But more and more newspapers are disappearing, as the business model has changed dramatically. Once reliable revenue streams have diminished such as classified word ads; others are under constant attack such as public notices; and retail advertising has shrunk partly due to more choices and the growth of the internet.
The Louisville Courier-Journal publisher recently penned a column stating if newspapers are to survive, readers must carry more financial burden because the advertising base is decreasing.
The Vindicator newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio, is closing this month during its 150th year of operation. Since 2004, some 1,810 newspapers have stopped publishing, according to a University of North Carolina study. Many of those merged with other newspapers, but many others simply disappeared.
The loss is more than just a business that stops operating. Newspapers have been the chief watchdog on government and corruption and a leading advocate for transparency. Newspapers are typically first, and certainly more in-depth, with important information.
Many of our national and state leaders cry “fake news,” not so much because the news is not accurate, but because these leaders do not want the public to give credibility to something that may not be flattering. Make no mistake, the media has participated in this credibility erosion. The advent of TV networks devoted to a very specific political slant, newspapers mixing editorial columns among news content, TV shows proclaiming to be “news” when they are really just talking heads giving opinions, are among the factors that have blurred the line between news and opinion.
But the majority of newspapers — particularly community newspapers — strive to be accurate and honest in their reporting. The staff of community newspapers are part of the community and often personally know the newsmakers, whether they are public officials, law enforcement or those caught in a negative light. And the readers know the journalists, as well. In other words, anything but the truth would be easily exposed.
As far as I know, the News-Graphic isn’t going away anytime soon. And if we did, I feel confident another newspaper would step into its place.
The irony is the News-Graphic reaches more people today than ever before. We publish the print edition three times per week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) and the typical readership for each is 7,500-to-8,000; our website has an average of 1,500 visitors daily, our Facebook has over 11,400 followers, our text alerts have almost 2,000 users, The Scott Shopper has a circulation of 17,500 and on and on.
Soon, we’ll be launching an app with features that will enhance our internet presence and make accessing information easier. We are in the final stages of launching an email newsletter.
But for kicks and giggles, let’s stop and look at what would be lost if the News-Graphic really disappeared.
School honor rolls and events, local activities, local sports, local advertising, coverage of nonprofits, courthouse records, property transfers, local calendar, local volunteers, historical events, local obituaries and death notices, government coverage and analysis, letters to the editor and on and on. The News-Graphic is a historical document our ancestors will rely upon to note our successes — and failures.
Yes, much of this information can be found elsewhere, but you would have to visit dozens of websites or make multiple visits to various locations to obtain a fraction of the information found in a single edition of the News-Graphic.
Oh, and yes the Lexington media will report on the major events, but they won’t be around if the local football team goes 2-9 and forget any chance the honor rolls are reported.
Almost from the beginning the News-Graphic has used a paywall on its website. Some people have complained we would “dare” ask them to pay for information, yet they fail to consider that it requires someone to gather that information and put it into a form that is easy to read and understand. Some 30 people work to provide that information in its various forms, and they have families to support. So, yes, there is a cost associated, just as there is a cost to that latte or candy bar.
At the same time, we have always included both the online and the printed newspaper in our subscription price. In other words, as a subscriber, you receive the printed News-Graphic and access to our website, our mobile website and soon, our app. A very good deal.
However, when you subscribe, the price paid is mostly to cover the cost of delivery of the printed and internet product. The actual cost of producing that newspaper is covered by the advertising, including classified word ads, public notices, inserts, etc. And as I said earlier, those are the areas that are diminishing.
So, please subscribe. But also support our advertisers and let them know where you saw their ad. Place a classified ad — yes there are multiple social media sites that make using them easy and financially attractive — but there are advantages to the newspaper, as well, including the tangible aspect and the number of people we reach.
The public notice issue is touchy because it is a revenue stream for newspapers. But you must ask yourself how transparent our government would be if they, alone, could decide when, how and to whom information was disseminated. Try finding the budget of a government entity on their website.
Finally, the newspaper is a tie that binds this community. Communication and common experiences are a big part of what makes up a community. Take that away and this is just a bunch of houses located adjacent to each other. Remove that tie, and the community has less in common and the lack of communication erodes the foundation holding everything together.
So, I return to the original question.
If the News-Graphic were to disappear, would you miss us?
Mike Scogin can be reached at MScogin@news-graphic.com.