Publisher’s Perspective: Supporting local journalism (Opinion)
Since 1958, the Tribune has been covering local news in the Tahoe Basin. A lot has changed since then, to say the least.
The Sacramento Bee recently announced they will eliminate their Saturday editions, as will all the newspapers owned by the McClatchy Co. nationwide. Two of the largest publishers in the nation, Gannett and GateHouse, have just merged to create the largest newspaper publisher in the country.
Print days are getting slashed to save on expenses, and large organizations are condensing to create efficiencies designed to also save costs. In the past dozen years, 1,800 newspapers large and small have closed. Newsrooms have half the journalists they had in 2004, yet the papers continue to provide the most original reporting among all news media.
Yes, news suffers as a result, but not for lack of audience or taste for the news so much as the business itself. The local papers also produce the newsiest and best read websites in their communities. But the business has not moved as easily from print to online as the readers have, most simply put. The networks and news-aggregating sites leave the papers to foot the rather expensive bill for the reporters and editors producing the news while sharing our stories and reaping most of the revenue.
The Tribune, free to the reader in print and online, enjoys a healthy weekly readership in both mediums while working to close the gap with more effective local online advertising and marketing than the giant Googles and Facebooks and others can provide.
While we’ve been able to manage things with this approach, it’s been exactly that: managing. And we’ve done a good job managing. We’ve grown our overall audience to the largest it’s ever been.
As a local news media company — we’re far from just a print entity in coverage or advertising anymore — to remain viable in today’s world, we have to be present across many platforms because people consume news in so many ways.
Week in and week out we have to make sure there’s information in print, on our website, in our email newsletters, on social media channels, and other areas so we can create what we think is the most important thing that we do: keep local residents informed.
People that read local news content are more involved with their local communities. They are more informed and make better-educated decisions. And for communities surrounding Tahoe that include many second homeowners, this is, perhaps, amplified.
Where I’m going with all of this is that I would love for the Tribune to dig deeper into the issues that affect the community. Not just for more and better information, but also taking the approach of solutions-based journalism.
Yes, we can cover urgent items in the news, but there’s typically little time to devote to actual, viable solutions. The problem is that with everything else we have to cover, and the small staff that we carry, it’s a challenge. That’s where you come in.
Over the coming months you may notice options that will allow readers to make donations in support of local journalism. Regardless if donations are made or not, we will still continue to provide the same free content online and in print. If we do receive donations, they will be used exclusively for editorial purposes. As examples:
• We could use for an additional writer for a multi-part series covering the future of fire prevention in the Tahoe Basin.
• It could be used to obtain court documents associated with a story and produce an accompanying video that would supplement a print story.
• It could be used to cover more local sports and associated video/photos.
• Or, and yes it’s possible, it could be used to add back in another day of print by way of producing more content.
I realize that some may read this and think that this is a money grab and that it will just be used to line our pockets. While that couldn’t be further from the truth (donations will only be used for editorial purposes), that’s fine — you don’t have to donate. It’s as simple as that.
Good, deep and meaningful community content comes at a price, but so does the lack of it. Much has been said about what happens to small towns when the local newspapers close.
Things like the cost of local government go up — from salaries to local bond increases, it costs taxpayers more to finance. Going this route is a better option than having no local news source at all. I’m not saying that’s the alternative if this doesn’t work, but free news isn’t free.
If it’s successful, you’ll notice a difference in what we are producing and that should provide value. If not, we won’t sit still on trying to succeed in creating local informed residents — that’s still at the core of what we do. How we get there just might be a little different.
We appreciate all of you that continue to support.
Rob Galloway is publisher of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.