VOICES: No local newspaper means loss of ‘memories and the written record of your community’

Editor's note: This guest column by Ray Marcano, an educator and retired journalists, appeared on the Dayton Daily News' Ideas and Voices page Friday, July 17.

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

Waynesville, Missouri (population: nearly 5,000) has a lot going for it ― it’s the Ozark Mountains and Roubidoux Spring was a part of the infamous Trail of Tears ―but it’s missing one thing it could really use.

A community ne


The local newspaper, The Waynesville Daily Guide closed in 2018 because its owner apparently needed to save money. It’s a long line of closures that should concern us all.

Since 2004, some 2,100 newspapers have closed their doors, according to research by Penelope Muse Abernathy, the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina. ­

“When an inner city neighborhood, suburban town or rural village loses a local newspaper, the community loses the journalist who covers routine government meetings – the local school board, the county commissioners, the planning board – where elected and appointed officials debate issues that will affect the quality of life of residents in the community,” Abernathy said in an email.

And there’s more.

“You lose the photographs of your kids' sports events or seeing your child's name on the honor rolls. There are no wedding photos or birth and engagement announcements to cut out and keep."

- Luge Hardman, Waynesville’s former mayor

Luge Hardman, Waynesville’s former mayor, has been publishing a newsletter and utilizing social media for local information but realizes that doesn’t take the place of a newspaper.

She noted, “You lose the photographs of your kids’ sports events or seeing your child’s name on the honor rolls. There are no wedding photos or birth and engagement announcements to cut out and keep.” And there’s another important piece that often goes unnoticed: “We lose a lot of our history. You lose the memories and the written record of your community.

Some will say they can get their news free online, so why bother paying a newspaper?

But free has its cost.

It’s the cost of being uninformed or missing important events because you don’t have a local newspaper to keep you up to date.

It wasn’t that long ago the Dayton Daily News faced the unthinkable prospect of being reduced to a three-times-a-week publication.

That would have been disastrous. The newspaper’s coverage of the deadly tornadoes and horrific Oregon District shooting, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic proves the value of a thriving local newspaper (and I’m not just saying that because I used to work here).

Patricia Gallagher Newberry, the national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and director of Miami University’s Journalism program, said it best when I asked her about the value of local journalism.

“If you value local news, you should pay for local news. If you read newspapers or magazines, go to their websites or call their switchboards to find out how to subscribe,” she said. “If you listen to radio news or watch TV news, support them with donations or by visiting their advertisers. And while you are at it, reach out to their news managers and thank them for continuing to cover the news you use.”

Ray Marcano, a former Dayton Daily News editor, is a media lecturer at Wright State. He’s the former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer juror and a Fulbright fellow.

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