The local newspaper is so important, they read it at the South Pole.

Jan 27, 2021

Thesis: The single best thing one could do to support any local economy is to read, advertise in, and subscribe to the local newspaper.

Disclaimer: I have no financial stake in nor have I ever been an employee of this or any newspaper.

This past year I’ve felt the struggle newspapers throughout the Hill Country are going through. This bothers me. I’ve been a devoted newspaper reader ever since I delivered the Iowa City Press-Citizen at age 11. That is how I stayed more informed than my elementary classmates about everything from the space race and civil rights to the murder that happened a block from our home.

Over the ensuing decades, first television, then the internet, then social media took over as the primary news source for many. But one thing never changed: a local newspaper is the only media that collects local news. As our tiny weekly in Wellman, Iowa, proudly crowed: “The only newspaper in the world that gives two whoops about Wellman, Iowa.”

Day or night, weekends, in all weathers, reporters and photographers go out to cover breaking local news. Yes, these can be the dramatic stories such as fires, car wrecks, crimes, and the weather events that make them hard to cover. But those reporters are also bringing us the less exciting but more impactful news made at government meetings.

I spent many years reporting on school boards in two different communities. No matter how informed you think you are, only by sifting through the actual brain-numbing agenda do you truly understand the issues and solutions our elected officials are grappling with. The newspaper has reporters that attend all those school board meetings, and city council meetings, and county commissioner meetings. And then they follow up and clarify issues, ask questions, and report the news, as well as report the backlash to the news.

What about media slant or bias? Here is the truth: all media has bias. All people have bias. Think of any conflict you witness or are involved in, whether a friendly debate over coffee or an argument between your dad and Aunt Thelma. Read the eye-witness accounts of a fender-bender. The reports by the two parties could be taken from two different accidents. It is the reporter’s unenviable task to report a wreck as it happened. It won’t be perfect, but at least it will include objective facts.

On today’s national level, “news” outlets are more about creating drama and attracting viewers than filing stories. But not a single cable news channel will report on the Billie basketball scores, read an obituary of a leading citizen, show the winning pig at the stock show, or report on the Wunderlich-Duecker wedding.

This newspaper holds an incredible amount of quality content beyond the basketball scores and livestock reports. You can read a movie review from a Rotten Tomato critic who is local, a cooking column by national award-winning food manufacturers who are local, a history column by an educator who is local, and pieces on game and gardening by experts who are local. Just last week I learned how exotic ungulates arrived in the Texas Hill Country, which native trees to plant here, and how to mix up a batch of Oma’s cornbread.

Often readers tell me they read my column after the obituaries and Letters To The Editor. While social media have in some ways tried to supplant the Letters function, it is still here where you can read your neighbor’s opinions on potholes and parades. And respond in kind if so moved.

The importance of advertising is a whole other column. But as owner of a Fredericksburg retail shop, I take advantage of the range of print advertising the newspaper offers. New customers often walk in clutching a visitor guide.

There’s other stuff that is icing on the cake. I always sit down with my granddaughter and do the half page of games on the back page. And I at least start the crossword and sudoku puzzle.

Altogether, that’s a lot of bang for a buck fifty.

See you in the funny pages.