Tom Stangl

would like to talk with you about the state of local news in the early 21st century. I promise not to be too technical or whiny. No one likes a whiner.

There is a lot of talk lately about newspapers being dead. As former newspaperman Mark Twain famously quipped “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Some papers are struggling, others are adapting to the changing ways people consume news.

It’s this changing landscape of news consumption that is causing problems for business models, readers and our democracy. You will be forgiven for thinking that is a stretch, hear me out.

A survey published last week by the Pew Research Center shows that 50% of people surveyed on the large problems facing the nation feel that “made up news and information” is a very big problem in the country today. Pew studies the media and the public’s perceptions of it.

It ranks fifth on the list after drug addiction (70%), affordability of health care (67%), US political system (52%) and the gap between rich and poor (51%). 

Still not convinced it’s a “thing?” It ranked ahead of: violent crime (49%), climate change (46%), racism (40%), illegal immigration (38%), terrorism (34%) and sexism (26%).

We clearly have a problem and the people surveyed had a clear idea of who needs to fix it: the news media, the choice of 53% of respondents. The public at 20% was a distant second.

So, what’s the answer?

This is the place where I tell you that you need to be an investor in media. Buy a subscription in print or online and tell your friends and neighbors to do so as well. News outlets work when there is a sustainable business model in place. 

For decades, advertising carried the ball. Founding father Alexander Hamilton is quoted as saying “It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic.”

Today, there are lots of ways to advertise. Newspapers and their websites deliver one of the largest audiences in our markets. We are a great way to reach readers who will love to come to your business. Always will be.

Since Google and Facebook have a virtual and literal monopoly on much of the ad spending online, readers will be tasked with footing more of the bill as the digital age matures.

There is federal legislation that is in the works designed to help newspapers compete online with the giants. The bills want to make Google and Facebook pay for content that they have used for free. It is well intended, but I am not holding my breath in hopes that it will pass, let alone help.

In the end, it comes down to you and me. We need to fix this problem by the tried and true capitalistic free market system of putting our money where our mouth is.

We appreciate the support of our subscribers and advertisers. The news industry needs readers to subscribe to the outlets we trust, love and use. 

Do it now while we can turn things around. We’ll do the rest.

Thanks for your support and trust.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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