I received an email earlier today from Newspapers & Technology Magazine. The magazine sends out the emails occasionally to update those of us who work in newspapers about what is going on in our industry.
The email today had some of the normal stories — this company buying that company and this paper putting its news behind a digital paywall.
But there were several stories that were alarming. The Portland Tribune in Portland, Oregon, cut its paper back to one time a week. The Register Citizen in New Haven, Conn., closed its office and will have its one remaining employee work from his home. Finally, a story we have been seeing way too much in recent years, the News-Gazette in Contra Costa County, California, closed its doors for good. The paper had been publishing since 1958.
The managing editor of the News-Gazette said the closure would be devastating for the community.
“Not to pat ourselves and say we’re winning Pulitzers, but we are covering those issues that nobody else is covering at all,” Rick Jones told KQED News. “Anything happening now, unfortunately, it’s not going to be covered. That’s the news hole.”
Unfortunately, across our state and nation, Contra Costa County is one of many smaller communities that will have no one to tell the stories that impact people who live and work there.
As a whole, the newspaper industry is struggling. Every day it seems more people are getting their news from reputable sources like Facebook and Twitter (sarcasm intended). And with fewer readers, it becomes more and more difficult to get advertisers to spend their money with newspapers like the News-Herald.
Across the nation, the answer to difficult times has been first to cut payroll, usually cutting staff in the newsroom before moving on to other departments. When that doesn’t work, more drastic steps are taken, leading eventually to papers being closed for good.
Before I moved to Del Rio, I worked for a private company that owned around a dozen papers. The owner had been in charge for many years and had watched his profit go from what was likely millions to small profits and finally losses. For several years, he had a big enough nest egg to absorb the losses without hurting his papers. But over time the cuts got greater and the losses began to cut greater into his personal funds.
As that happened, the owner become a little desperate and that desperation led to him shutting two papers with almost no notice. In each case, a buyer came in at the last second and kept the papers open — but barely.
It’s easy for me to say this because I’ve spent my whole life in the news, but community newspapers are extremely important. We play a vital role in the community that can’t be replaced if a paper closes down. Yes, we do have a role as the watchdog as many in our industry claim, but that’s just a small part of our job. Even more important, we tell the stories about the men and women, boys and girls, who call our community home.
In the News-Herald, you can see what your local governments are doing. But you can also find out how the Del Rio sports teams fare, see who won at the livestock show and hear from local pastors who share the word of God.
We are part of Del Rio; this is our home and we want it to excel in every way. Part of excelling is having a strong, local paper. And for that, we need your help. Please pick up the paper or visit our website and read the stories. You might be surprised at what you will learn. If you own or manage a business, consider advertising to sell your product or service.
We are fortunate that our parent company — Southern Newspapers Inc. — is a strong company dedicated to community newspapers. That’s all they do. With your support, we will be here for generations to come, ensuring Del Rio has a newspaper of its own for many years to come.
David Rupkalvis is the publisher of the Del Rio News-Herald