By Felicia Mason and Darrell Sandlin
Alabama newspapers are not disappearing.
Recent changes in the newspaper landscape in Alabama have us wanting to share some good news about newspapers. Alabama newspapers are alive and printing.
Like most every industry in the world, our industry is experiencing changes that some have characterized as the end of newspapers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Alabama has 109 paid circulation newspapers that have a print edition at least every week.
Newspapers have evolved in how they deliver news to their readers, but not in their mission to provide quality journalism in their communities. Their print products are now complemented with various platforms, including websites, electronic editions, social media and video. Online only newspapers, in their new frontier, still continue to provide a valuable service in their communities for local news.
This multimedia combination delivers the greatest exposure of news, entertainment, and public notices available in any community in our state. And our newspapers remain a reliable and important news source.
A recent market study, conducted by the independent research firm Coda Ventures, reports that 3.2 million, or 81%, of Alabama adults rely on newspapers every month for local news and advertising. That is strong.
The study also found that among consumers who plan to shop for specific products and services, the targeted reach of newspapers is unrivaled.
Our newspapers are an unmatched source of information because they help people know what’s going on in their community, and this promotes a sense of social engagement. The news you receive in your community newspaper is news you cannot get from any other news source.
Local newspapers keep residents up to date on births and deaths; updates from local schools and stories about students who are making a difference; information on civic clubs, fundraisers, and community events; in-depth coverage on local sports teams; openings of new businesses and industries; and updates on arts and entertainment events.
A local newspaper’s focus is to make your community stronger and safer, and to encourage its readership to be more involved.
These days, we hear a lot about transparency. Your local newspapers play an important role in making sure relevant information citizens need to make informed decisions is disclosed. They act as a form of communication between governments and the citizens they serve. They hold local governments accountable to the taxpayers. They are there to cover city council, county commission and school board meetings where decisions are made that affect your everyday life.
Lastly, a good newspaper is the record of a public voice. Articles on key issues affecting communities, letters to editors, and guest columns offer citizens and elected officials alike the opportunity to share their views, their demands and grievances, their criticisms, and their appreciation of governmental activities.
By offering a place to air complaints and discuss problems, newspapers help strengthen the bonds of their communities, and facilitate the exchange of ideas.
So, don’t believe everything you hear about newspapers going away. There are 109 voices in Alabama that disagree.
Felicia Mason is Executive Director of the Alabama Press Association, and Darrell Sandlin is APA President