News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

April 7, 2013

MAX JONES: The American Newspaper: Changing? Yes. Dying? No way!

TERRE HAUTE — It happened again this past January when all those “looking at the year ahead” stories started popping up on Internet “news” websites and broadcast “news” programs.

Under a provocative headline reading something like “Five industries/businesses doomed to tank in the coming year,” there it was, a prediction based on an unsubstantiated “expert” analysis that the newspaper industry will continue in 2013 to suffer its slide into oblivion.

Having been in this industry for almost 38 years and planning to happily remain a few years more, you’d think such headlines would make me tremble.

They don’t. I do grumble a bit about these stories, primarily about their sources. But having watched the evolution of newspapers the past four decades, I know this gloomy, oft-repeated analysis is based on a lazy assumption. The Internet, so they say, rules the media world and is making other content-delivery systems irrelevant.

Digital media (including websites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter) have certainly changed the dynamic of information consumption. While print products are no longer the only method of delivery, they remain the primary method for community newspapers such as the Tribune-Star.

In fact, if some of those digital or broadcast naysayers were to actually do their homework and study reliable national studies, they would know better. We would recommend a quick review of a recent survey conducted in U.S. communities by the research arm of the University of Missouri School of Journalism for the National Newspaper Association. (You can see the summary for yourself at www.nnaweb.org.)

Among its findings:

n 92 percent say their local newspaper is informative.

n 83 percent say they and their families rely on newspapers for local news and information.

n 96 percent of readers pay for their newspaper.

n Every newspaper has 2.18 readers.

n 49 percent of those with Internet access say they never read local news online.

n By a 3-1 margin, respondents prefer their newspaper to TV for local news.

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