The value of community newspapers

The value of community newspapers

Social media doesn’t show up to cover events

I’ve been trying my darnedest to avoid writing about this subject, because I know someone out there is going to say “You’re just a self-serving jerk.” So be it.

In much the same vein as the advent of radio and television, many newspaper haters are predicting the end of the medium, predominately because of social media like Facebook and Instagram and internet news sites.

I disagree that newspapers are irrelevant. To be more specific, I disagree that news is irrelevant. In my opinion, the advent of social media and internet news sites has, if anything, increased the demand for news content of all kinds: hard news, beat reporting, features, sports, entertainment, opinion and more.

Throughout my 26 year career, I’ve learned what makes a community newspaper relevant: accurate reporting that’s of interest to your local readers. Community newspapers prospered in the past because of local content and that’s still what’s going to carry us through the Facebook era.

Over the last two and a half decades, I’ve generally worked in communities that were in the shadow of large cities and what I experienced prepared me for social media competition. Without fail, the large city media always claim to be regional, yet rarely leave their city limits. From what I’ve observed firsthand, city media only leave their corporate limits when something heinous occurs in a smaller area. Murder, rape, child deaths, teen suicide, racist crimes and much more are the lures that draw the city media out. The result is that rural communities are depicted as places where these types of things occur, and not much else.

Working for 26 years in rural communities for the most part, I can tell you that’s not true. Some of the finest people I’ve ever met lived, worked and volunteered in rural communities.

Community newspapers provide that objective platform which shines a light on both the good and bad that exist here, like everywhere else.

Another point I make when someone touts the future of newspapers versus social media is coverage of local events and issues. I know I spend a lot of time covering council meetings, chamber of commerce luncheons and entertainment events and I don’t see anyone from Facebook there. I was at two major events in Wetaskiwin this past weekend, and I spent some time asking around if any reporter from Twitter or Instagram was there. If they were, I couldn’t find them.

Then there’s quality. Community newspapers, for the most part, employ journalists who spent years in college and in the field learning their trade. They know how to write news, sports, features and opinion to a high level of quality, and I’ll tell you the stuff I see on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram isn’t near that level.

Lastly, your community newspaper engages with you. Any of our local readers knows where to find me if they have something important to say. Interestingly enough, Facebook, for example, does not even allow the public to contact them. Community newspaper staff live and work in the same community as you.

Also, keep in mind important moral questions that surround how social media functions… for example, the way in which police proved the Russian government manipulated Facebook to affect the last U.S. presidential election. Facebook didn’t even know what was going on until the cops told them. It concerns me because I use Facebook too, as does The Pipestone Flyer. People pay a lot of money to advertise on there but I wonder whose message I’m reading…

Those of you who feel newspapers (or news in general) are doomed, just look at the websites and pages you visit through social media and the internet. What’s on there? I would predict it’s news content you’re looking for.

I have a feeling that not only the importance of community news but of quality, objective news in the first place will ensure newspapers survive social media and the internet.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.

Just Posted

file photo
UPDATE — Breton RCMP investigate fatal house fire

A one-year-old male and four-year-old female died in the house fire.

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo again denied parole

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Most Read