Talk is easy and cheap. Reporting is hard and expensive.
The week of Oct. 3-9 is National Newspaper Week. This isn’t one of those fake social media holidays or one that’s used to market a commercial product. Instead, this is a time when newspapers take a little time to remind readers and advertisers of our importance in their daily lives.
The news staff of The Herald-Dispatch has a 112-year legacy to live up to. Our longtime readers remember the days when pages were full of ads from local businesses and reporters and photographers dug into the region in search of stories no one else could or would tell. Owning a local newspaper wasn’t exactly a license to print money, but it was close.
The past 25 years have been hard on local print media. The rise of big box stores and the decline of small locally owned retail businesses meant a loss of advertising dollars. Financially speaking, the news business at the local level isn’t what it used to be. We don’t have as many people in our new building as we had in the old one.
Competition from social media hasn’t helped. A generation or two ago, information was a product people were willing to pay for. The rise of social media has turned information into a commodity that people expect for free. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch; someone has to pay the bills.
Throw in the fact that young adults prefer to get their information from a phone screen instead of a print product, and it’s easy to see the challenges this industry faces.
Like everyone else, we’ve had to change with the times and with technology. Change isn’t easy. The learning curve can be steep, and those switchbacks don’t help. And yes, companies that own newspapers have made mistakes that damaged their relationship with readers.
But the staff at The Herald-Dispatch hasn’t given up in despair. We still bring you the stories you want to read — high school athletes who make a difference; the opioid epidemic; keeping public meetings open to the public; and Marshall athletics, of course, among many others.
The basics of what we do remain the same, and we’ll be here for you as long as you want us.