In this edition we share a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted rural news outlets. It’s a story that hits everyone at The Other Oregon and EO Media Group close to home.
The economics of the news business have never been easy. When most businesses were closed last spring, the local advertising news outlets depend upon fell off dramatically. I don’t know of any news outlet that didn’t have to make cuts to survive. Some couldn’t be saved and ceased publishing.
It would be easy to dismiss a community newspaper as a horse-and-buggy institution terribly out of touch with the times. In reality, there is nothing more in touch with the life and times of the community it serves than a local newspaper.
Local newspapers are the first draft of a community’s history, documenting the big events that will linger in the collective memory. Any community paper worth its salt doesn’t stop there. Births, deaths, extracurricular activities, sports, graduations, anniversaries, club events and reunions are all fodder for copy.
One small town paper in the Midwest used to advertise on the front page the number of local people named in each edition. Facebook postings live forever online, but they can’t be taped to the refrigerator or saved in Grandma’s scrapbook.
Some people get their names in the paper for things they’d rather Grandma didn’t hear about. Without local reporting, the shenanigans of local officials and the criminal element would go unrecorded. And an informed electorate also needs to know about the more mundane actions of local government.
Despite the challenges, there are still people willing to keep local news outlets alive, either in print or online. And where none exist, there are people willing to create them. Rural Oregon is better off for them.
— Joe Beach