Monday, October 3, 2011

It's National Newspaper Week: Celebrate the commitment

As a fitting prelude to National Newspaper Week, a news story Saturday quoted police crediting a published account in The Mercury with providing tips that led to the arrest of a child rape suspect.
According to Pottstown Detective Heather Long, police had been trying for months to locate a man wanted for sex assaults on children. The day a story was published in the newspaper with that information and the suspect’s photo, the phone started ringing at the police department at 8 a.m.
Long said the tips led to the suspect’s arrest.
Despite all the doomsayers out there writing obituaries for the nation’s newspaper industry, 150 million Americans — two out of three adults — read a local newspaper last week.
And the case of the child rape suspect shows they often take action on what they read.
Newspapers still represent the most trusted source of news in America. And local newspapers like this one still provide readers with information they can’t get anywhere else.
Here’s another example:
On Sunday, The Mercury published a news story that revealed area members of Congress collect state legislative pensions while earning a congressional salary of $174,000.
The gist of that information came from a recent USA Today analysis on how state legislators around the nation boost their own pension benefits, often unbeknownst to voters.
Staff reporter Evan Brandt took that information and localized it with five congresssional reps from the tri-county area, soliciting explanations from them and reaction from readers.
Without that initiative by this local newspaper, the report’s impact on local voters and their opinions would go unknown.
Local newspapers are still the best and in many towns the only source tailoring information to a community or neighborhood level.
This is National Newspaper Week, and this year’s theme, “Newspapers — Your Number One Source for Local News,” underscores the importance of the nation’s newspapers in the daily lives of citizens.
Newspapers certainly have competitors out there: a hundred million websites, hundreds of thousands of bloggers, Facebook, Twitter, billboards, radio and television. And that competition is formidable.
But the vast majority of the “authoritative” news coverage that other media outlets utilize comes from daily and weekly newspapers.
Every day, some 20,000 households representing about 60,000 people read the print version of The Mercury. During the course of a month, our website will be clicked more than 2.5 million times.
That’s a lot of traffic for an industry that some call a dead-end road.
Newspapers are the number one source of local news in every city and county in America because we show up each and every day and cover those stories. It’s what our readers have come to expect.
And it’s what we do better than any other news source in America.
Newspapers matter -- in print and online. If you doubt the power of a newspaper, just ask Pottstown Detective Heather Long.

Doug Anstaett, president of the Newspaper Association Managers, contributed to this Opinion.

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