Community newspapers not extinct

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By Doug Bell

Few industries have gone from boom to bust as quickly as newspapers.

In 1989, I was working for the Rocky Mountain News, and times were good. Really good. Our circulation was soaring, and ad sales were humming along.

Fast-forward 20 years, and many things have changed. The Rocky has disappeared, and several other major dailies have followed that same path to extinction. Craigslist has drained away classified advertising. The current economic downturn is taking its toll. And of course readers are turning to the Internet for their news and away from print publications.

Community newspapers have not been immune to the decline, though we seem to be holding up a bit better than our daily counterparts. And here at Evergreen Newspapers, we stubbornly believe that weekly newspapers focused on local news still play a critical role in the community.

Still, we’ve had to make our business model more efficient, and those changes have affected the news columns, especially our policies on free listings.

In the good old days, just about any event or activity could find a place in our calendars or briefs columns, but it’s no longer possible for us to devote the amount of space we once did to those features.

On Page 2 this week, you’ll find our new policy for calendars and listings. We’ve had to cut back dramatically on items from for-profit entities looking to promote events in the news columns, but our advertising department is eager to help with your needs.

We’re also still very interested in community news submissions: weddings, anniversaries, engagements, awards and achievements, etc. Please keep sending those, along with photos, to news@evergreenco.com.

Many readers have called to comment on the smaller paper sizes of late. Unfortunately, the paper can be only as large as the advertising will pay for, so smaller papers — leaving less room for features such as the puzzles — are at least a temporary reality we are dealing with.

Many of these same readers have asked what they can do to help, and I’ll offer these suggestions:

• Buy a mail subscription for a friend who has moved out of the area.

• Tell the local businesses you frequent that you want to see their advertising in the Courier.

• Spread the word: The survival of community newspapers ultimately will depend on community support, financial and otherwise.

An old friend of mine who teaches journalism in Third World countries recently commented that he’d found “a place where the dinosaurs still can graze.” He went on to describe how much the people in those places treasure their newfound access to news and information.

I see that same emotion in the faces of loyal Courier readers. And to them I say this: We’re not dinosaurs yet.

Doug Bell is the editor of the Courier.