Let’s start out today by stating the frank reality: Local journalism isn’t the same as it used to be.
A year and a half into a global pandemic, the local news business faces several challenges, including:
The shift in consumer behavior to technology-driven devices, and online shopping negatively impacting local businesses;
A shortage of trained journalists as many of our colleagues leave the business, and fewer young people pursue journalism as a career, with many going into public relations careers or writing brand content for companies or organizations;
Higher production costs, including the constantly rising cost of newsprint, transportation, etc. (At the same time, subscribers can still get 260 papers a year delivered to their home; full access to the website, app and e-Edition; and email newsletters and notifications, all for just 75 cents a day.);
Paying for the costs associated with gathering and publishing the news – whether in print or online – in markets where supply chain disruptions have left some of the media’s key advertisers without inventory to promote;
The closure of more than 90 local newsrooms across the country since March 2020 (and the loss of about 1,800 newspapers nationwide since 2004, resulting in “news deserts” – communities with no local news source).
Even before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, that reality has meant the need to reduce printing frequency and reserve most online content for paying customers. (And that’s not to mention the print production issues we’ve experienced here in Cheyenne recently, as addressed earlier this week by our regional president, Bill Albrecht.)
The reality is as we strive to satisfy traditional newsprint readers, we must push forward and accommodate a growing consumer base and advertising base that demands digital solutions and delivery. If you do not believe the shift in consumer behavior is real, ask yourself these two questions: Do I have a smartphone? Have I ever made an online purchase? If the answer is yes, you have changed your consumer behavior in the last 20 years. The generation behind you has grown up doing those two things as normal activities, not as something new or different.
Yes, these challenges make things difficult at times. But much to the chagrin of those who have been trying to write our obituary for decades, we’re still an active, vital part of the Laramie County community. The journalists at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and at local journalism organizations across the country are as dedicated as ever to the mission of providing the news you need and holding public officials accountable.
We can’t do it alone, though. Sure, we could start a website and post some stories there with the hope that you would find them and tell your friends about them. But without a way to pay the journalists who write those stories, the effort wouldn’t be sustainable. That’s why we count on you, our loyal subscribers, to help us continue to provide the content that matters to you individually and our community as a whole.
No, this isn’t a sales pitch or a pledge drive similar to the one conducted by Wyoming Public Radio this past week. Instead, coming on the heels of National Newspaper Week, it’s a reminder that quality local journalism matters, and Cheyenne has been blessed to have it for more than 150 years.
Wyoming Tribune Eagle