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After 30 years, community news still matters



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March 1995 The Alpharetta ReVue becomes a weekly newspaper (click for larger version)
January 15, 2013
This is the age of instant communication, instant information and instant gratification. I heard on the radio today that many savvy Internet browsers will wait for a video upload all of two seconds. After five seconds, half will move on. Take 10 seconds and your message is ancient history.

So why would some make the statement that community newspapers are still relevant? I have given that a lot of thought, and I think I can put my finger on some of the major reasons.

First, we are in the business of bringing our readers the local news. It's the in-depth news that is about you and your community that you do not get anywhere else. It is the news people in the community want to read.

A lot of it is important. We answer questions like: What kind of business is going up in the next block? Who is bringing new jobs to town? Are my local tax dollars being spent wisely?

We also tell the community all about the things going on that would never make the 11 o'clock news. What the kids did in school. Who is the new coach? The soccer team photos – or baseball teams or volleyball teams are always popular (at least to the parents).

Whatever the community is into, we try to cover it. Our goal is to have something from our paper on every refrigerator in every home we deliver.

Yes, we know there is a changing world out there that likes to get their news online. And we provide that too. But there is still something about "being in the newspaper," that gives what people do a special cachet that one just doesn't get on a blog or the Internet.

I have come to believe that the special quality newsprint imbues into something is validation. When we write about what is happening in our schools, what the civic clubs are doing or the latest Eagle Scouts, we are validating those things which are important to the community.

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(click for larger version)
By virtue of being in print, it says this is important and that the public should take note. When you see it in "black and white," then there's a stamp of importance attached to it. That is why years later you can open a dusty old album and among the yellowed clippings find a mention of an event about a relative or loved one in the newspaper.

Postings on Facebook are just not the same.

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When we write about the institutions – churches, schools, civic clubs, government – we validate the core values of our readers because these are the institutions they hold dear. What happens to them, what they represent, the actions involving them are news. And we all know it is news because it was in the newspaper.

And of course, the people in a community newspaper are the people you see every day – at church, in the grocery store, at the PTA or at Rotary.

We put the public in the know about the elected officials who have the most power over their daily lives because they are the decision-makers whose decisions are closest to them. What streets get paved, where the new roundabout is going to be placed. Will taxes go up?

Also, we tell you whose house was broken into or where the next Walmart is going to be built.

In other words, if it affects our readers directly, then it is a top story for us.

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Managing Editor, Appen Newspapers Inc.
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