By Joe Smyth
Chairman, INI Board of Trustees
An article in Sunday’s New York Times put yet another nail in the coffin of local newspapers.
In speculating about what the future will be in 2022 (that’s only two years from now), David Leonhardt writes:
“Local newspapers will be one casualty. They were already struggling, because Google, Facebook and Craigslist had taken away their main source of revenue: print advertising. Between 2008 and 2019, American newspapers eliminated about half of all newsroom jobs.
“The virus has led to further declines in advertising and more job cuts — and could end up forcing dozens more papers to fold or become tiny shells of their old selves. If that happens, their cities will be left without perhaps the only major source of information about local politics, business, education and the like.”
Well, he might be right about some newspapers, but not about Independent NewsMedia Inc. USA.
We’re not only going to survive.
We’re going to thrive.
Here are 10 reasons why:
- Our people: Thanks to our incredibly dedicated people, our little company has always been blessed with a resiliency that our competitors can only envy. Our teams do whatever is necessary to make sure their company remains successful. We are honored that so many of them choose to spend their entire careers with us.
- Our mission: Community journalism is at risk, but we cannot — and will not — fail our communities. Our mission is journalism, which means as many reporters as we can support. Yes, our industry has been shrinking. But we are constantly searching for ways to support more — not fewer — journalists, and that’s what we’re going to do. As one example, we are already achieving success in attracting philanthropic grants to support our journalism.
- Our communities: We are deeply involved in our communities and have earned a great deal of goodwill. Readers know that we care about the community and that they can depend on us to report the news without fear or favor. Advertisers know we care about them and that we are constantly looking for ways to help them be successful.
- Our ownership: For nearly 30 years, INI has been owned by a nonprofit journalistic trust. We created this ownership structure precisely for challenging times like these. We don’t have stockholders, so we don’t have to pay dividends. Because we don’t have to manage the company to please stockholders, we are free to focus entirely on fulfilling our mission.
- Our leadership: Unlike most of the big newspaper chains, we have never had a desire to own every newspaper in the country. We have been very cautious about acquisitions. As a result, we have almost no debt. We — not the bankers and Wall Street — are in control of our destiny. And we can thrive on much lower profit margins than our competitors.
- Our print products: Many people love the printed newspaper. Our printers do a great job for us, and our print products do a great job for our advertisers. We’re going to keep giving them what they want.
- Our digital products: We are creating terrific websites that can provide a front page for each community’s hyperlocal digital newspaper, a replica of the print product, and regional, state, national and world news. These websites also have unlimited space for lighter fare, feature stories, entertainment, sports and special sections. Because there are no printing or delivery costs, we can reach many more readers than has ever before been possible, and at affordable prices.
- Our readers: People are starting to realize that “news” from the internet and cable television often isn’t trustworthy, and that they are going to have to help keep honest and nonpartisan local journalism alive. It’s up to us to give them products that are worth paying for. We have been asking readers to support local journalism with digital subscriptions, and we have been gratified by the initial responses. They really value what we do, and that feels good!
- Our embrace of change: Because journalism is our mission, everything else we do is constantly evolving to meet changing needs. We are always reinventing ourselves so we can continue to serve our communities.
- Our importance to democracy: “The health of our democracy is contingent on the health of journalism,” says Josh Stearns of the Democracy Fund. “Local news, done right, helps build community by reflecting the voices, concerns and stories of local people in ways that build connection and empathy.”
Yes, that’s what we strive to do in our communities. We provide independent journalism. We give people a platform for civil discussions of public issues. This is important, it is our mission and it is our sacred duty.