On June 28, I read a story about, yet another, newspaper that was closing its doors. The Vindicator, a daily newspaper that covered Youngstown, Ohio, for 150 years was calling it a day.
Yes, this is nothing new as we have seen a number of newspapers do the same over the past 10 years due to either their incorrect action or lack of action regarding reaction to internet changes.
I also feel many citizens don’t understand the importance of having a local newspaper and how it affects them until it is gone.
There are lots of options in today’s world for newspaper readers who want to pay less or nothing for their news. From free blogs to social media sites and TV news, who needs a newspaper?
Why subscribe if there’s no time to read, you feel the paper is biased or want to save money, which are all rational thinking. Or are they?
Millions of Americans across our nation have decided that they do not need a newspaper anymore. Thus leading to another reason some end up closing.
But what happens after?
A study done by Shankar Vedantam looked into the effects of declining newspapers and their negative impact on the communities they served.
Vedantam found that citizens unfortunately view newspapers as a consumer product, which it is not. They are more like a police or fire department. No, we are not first responders. But we are on the front lines of daily news and being a watchdog for our communities. Striving to keep citizens informed day in and day out.
So who bares the cost if communities don’t have police departments, fire departments or newspapers?
What happens when newspapers are not around to dig into local corruption and malfeasance?
What are the consequences to taxpayers?
As is the same for most businesses, when the surroundings change, the business must adapt to stay in business. Some businesses thrive, while others struggle. And yes, this is how capitalism works.
Vedantam’s study found newspapers don’t fit a normal business model as they have a very different type of effect on the communities they serve.
Just like when you borrow money from a bank to purchase a home, local city governments borrow money to build police stations, senior centers and bridges.
Taxpayers such as you pay off those city loans over time, the same as homeowners pay off their mortgages.
There is a direct relationship between the cost of those loans to city government and the decline in newspapers. Research found that government borrowing costs increased in communities that had lost their newspapers over the years.
Meaning, the closing of a local newspaper was followed by an increase in loan costs, ultimately increasing tax rates for citizens. This is due to not having the “watchdog” around to hold public officials and major corporations accountable.
The reason bank rates increase is due to lenders realizing that loans to local governments are now a little more risky. Why? Because they know that some government officials will be a little less honest and a little less careful.
Vedantam compares losing a community newspaper to getting rid of police officers that patrol neighborhoods. It just shouldn’t be allowed.
Newspapers are known to be more of a watchdog to the community than any other media. Thus a much different outcome is seen if a radio station or television news station was to close their doors.
As for the citizens of Scottsbluff and Gering, we have little to be concerned about when it comes to your newspaper closing. The Star-Herald is doing well financially. Changes have been put into place to ensure longevity and growth moving forward. We are reaching more people today than we did when print was the only option.
But we must always remember, “Decisions of today can have repercussions tomorrow."