Don’t let newspapers die

Periodically I tweet #buyanewspaper at people, for whatever that’s worth. (Probably not much.) It’s on my mind these days, because I’ve been watching a lot of my colleagues lose jobs.

Specifically, about 130 of them in November. Another 141 of them this month.

I freelance these days. It suits me. Layoffs at the newspaper where I used to work don’t affect me personally, except for making my heart hurt, because I was there for 10 years. Putting that in perspective, these were the people who saw me through both my pregnancies, commiserated about parenting, confided in me, laughed with me. The people I gleefully analyzed episodes of “24” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with. The people I survived working election night with. (It’s the worst. You have to wait for the polls to close and then you have to scramble to make deadline.) The people I secretly snuck up to the roof of the building with after deadline to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.

These are good, talented people, and they did not deserve to lose their jobs.

More to the point: These are the people who helped make the newspaper an essential read for the community it covers, and with them gone, there’s less of a reason to read the paper. And that’s not just a loss for my colleagues, it’s a loss for the community.

I’ve long believed that if you want to know more about the town you’re in — what’s it like to live in, what’s important to its residents — you read the local paper, which is why I track down one whenever I travel somewhere. (My parents still bring me back newspapers from wherever they were when they travel.) I can tell a lot about a place even by how thick the paper is, what kind of ads are in it and how well written and edited it is. A newspaper with almost no staff? That says it’s a paper not properly serving its community, because it doesn’t have the resources or the will.

Or it’s a paper no one is buying anymore.

Newspapers need subscribers. They need people to care about the paper on a regular basis, not just when they’re annoyed about something and writing letters to the editor, not just when someone they know got interviewed. All the time, or else the paper slowly disappears.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to what’s left of my old paper. But I hope it survives. I hope they all survive, because they’re needed.

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