Living without news | Tom Camfield

Tom Camfield
Posted 5/21/21

For “Living without a newspaper” see “‘The Expanding News Desert,” an almost-endless Internet report by Penelope Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital …

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Living without news | Tom Camfield


For “Living without a newspaper” see “‘The Expanding News Desert,” an almost-endless Internet report by Penelope Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Economics at the University of North Carolina.

She points out: “There are hundreds — if not thousands — of communities at risk of becoming isolated news deserts. There are almost 200 of the 3,143 counties in the United States without any paper. An additional 1,449 counties, ranging in size from several hundred residents to more than a million, have only one newspaper, usually a weekly. More than 2,000 have no daily paper. The residents of America’s emerging news deserts are often its most vulnerable citizens. They are generally poorer, older and less educated than the average American . . .

“The United States has lost almost 1,800 papers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Roughly half of the remaining 7,112 in the country — 1,283 dailies and 5,829 weeklies — are located in small and rural communities. The vast majority — around 5,500 — have a circulation of less than 15,000. “

And for my local trolls I’ll pause here to note how made-to-order this all is for proven political liars such as Donald Trump.

Actually in looking at last week’s issue of The Leader, which has been keeping the local public informed since late in 1889: we were kept up to snuff on operations of the Fort Worden Public Development Authority, a classroom addition by the Northwest Maritime Center, the county’s Facebook page, county progress on pandemic vaccinations, $3.6 million in state funding for Hood Canal Bridge fish passage, criminal cases of psychedelic drug use, police log, letters and columns, general news, sports  . . . other stuff

Do we want to depend on drop-in reporting from a daily newspaper 50 miles away in Clallam County?

Not on your life! The Leader will keep me posted on line of any big news between weekly print issues — all for only $52 a year.

Meanwhile, for a real Northwest daily I subscribe to the print edition of one of the nation’s last independent family-owned dailies, the Seattle Times. That’s a bit costly for some in this pandemic era, but you can sign up for the Sunday print edition only and check the daily edition on line.

And for a truly American newspaper from the nation’s capital, I pay just $10 a month for the online edition of The Washington Post. The daily cartoon by Ann Telnaes alone is worth it. In addition, for $17 a month more I receive the daily on-line New York Times. This last I read and contribute to as I can — but I consider the monthly payment in part a contrition to the continuing life of American journalism.

As I was writing this blog, my kid brother Fred (a PTHS grad of considerable renown, currently down in Mississippi, recently turned 85) was writing a letter to the Vicksburg Post, which was printed Wednesday. It read:

“It seems like every day another community newspaper closes down.  Senator Cantwell of Washington State has proposed a multi-billion dollar package of federal funding to provide aid to newspapers.

“A community newspaper is a written record of day-to-day events in a community recording everything from little league to bake sales. A well-written newspaper includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  My brother, a retired journalist,  wrote two books on the history of our hometown relying on newspaper archives.  The newspapers provided a recorded history.   You do not get that from electronic records.  Every time Microsoft decides to update its software they wipe out files based on software versions they no longer support.

“Many families have relied on newspaper archives to obtain the history of their families.   It fleshes out the limited amount they can obtain from oral histories passed down from generation to generation. We lost a section of our own family history because a prairie fire swept through a town, burning the newspaper, the county courthouse, and other buildings.

“The archives also provide a research source for writers of history and historical fiction, and also a record of natural disasters. I worry about the fate of historical records as newspapers shut their doors. — Fred E. Camfield.”