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.

We’re also blessed to have support from community representatives on this editorial board, who took it upon themselves this week to offer their thoughts about the importance of quality local journalism and why they volunteer their time in this way:

Lindsey Hanlon – “I volunteer my time for the editorial board because I think that robust local journalism is a crucial element in a community and in society at large. Without local journalism, we would lack information on everything from political corruption to vital health information to local Little League news. It is truly a community news source, writing about the things that we care about and that affect us most directly. In Wyoming, especially, local journalism allows us to connect small towns across large areas, giving us a collective sense of ourselves as Wyomingites.

“By volunteering on the editorial board (and, of course, by subscribing to the newspaper) I am showing how much I value local journalism. In return, I’m honored by the chance to bring the voices of my friends and neighbors to the table, and see journalism that is responsive to the opinions and needs of my city and state.”

Jim Weaver – “In a perfect world, I believe all news stories should percolate up from a local journalist viewpoint. Having a physical connection with elements of the story, the people it impacts and the resulting effect on the community can best be reported on by these individuals embedded in the day-to-day life of the readers.

“As a member of the editorial board, and as an active member of the community, my participation in reviewing and critiquing the editors’ opinions has been one of the most gratifying and significant opportunities I have had serving on any board.”

Rebekah Fitzgerald – “Since a young age, I’ve enjoyed the consumption of local journalism to inform me about the community I live in. The work of journalists captures the stories of my neighbors, shares photos and video of community events, reports on the details of new things to come, highlights the actions of elected officials and exposes the issues the community deserves to know – just to name a few things. And while my method of consumption has morphed over the years from strictly print to now include digital outlets, I appreciate local journalism now more than ever. It shares the reality of what’s happening in our community and not just posts or images served up to me because of an algorithm that warps reality.

“I deeply appreciate the work of local journalists and the professional work that goes into gathering, preparing and distributing the news. I value my role on the editorial board to share feedback from my fellow community members and provide my perspective from living and working in the community. It is a privilege to serve as a volunteer member and support the work of local journalism.”

We thank all three of them for their service; these weekly commentaries wouldn’t be possible without them. In the coming weeks, we’ll be adding more voices to their ranks to ensure as many demographic groups in our community are represented as possible.

We also want to thank you for your continued support. We know you have a choice in how you spend your money, and we appreciate the fact that you continue to see value in the work we do. We promise we will continue to work hard to serve you in the best ways possible every single day.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

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