One Voice: Meeting the challenge of change

The following column by Sharon Burton is reprinted from the February 1, 2018, edition of the Adair County Community Voice in her column, One Voice

Sharon Burton

I just ended a four-year term on the board of directors for the Kentucky Press Association. I hope I have contributed to the industry by serving on the board but I know that I have learned a tremendous amount of information while serving with my peers.

The newspaper industry has faced dramatic change in recent years, as have other industries impacted by the access of technology and information.

Yet I can assure you the announcement of the demise of newspapers is premature.

One phrase used to describe the change in the industry is “creative destruction,” or “creative disruption,” which is a change in existing patterns by the creation of new ones.

Our industry has most definitely experienced disruption, but we have worked hard to adapt and readership numbers prove that we continue to remain relevant and an important source of news and information.

Community newspapers such as ours continue to succeed while daily and large regional newspapers find themselves making drastic changes to retain their readership.

Newspaper people are in the information business, and we can provide that information in print or online, but the newspaper model has always been one that benefitted the reader.

Instead of paying for the news, readers paid a nominal subscription price and businesses paid the majority of the bill with advertising revenue. Online ad revenue does not reach a level needed to continue that model.

Because the newspaper industry panicked and decided to put all the news online at no cost to the reader early on, readers now tend to think news should be free. Sadly, we’ve been our own worst enemy by devaluing the cost of a being a watchdog of our government. We have fed a perception that all information is equal, whether it be from a biased viewpoint or rehashed by a blogger using information generated by someone else’s hard work. The truth is, investing in a free press is imperative for a free society.

Thankfully, many readers still value their community newspaper and we still see healthy local, community papers. The Adair County Community Voice has just recently experienced some of our best years since we began publication. We are thankful to our readers and advertisers for your support.

The newspaper industry will continue to make changes and adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Meanwhile, it’s good to know from a recent survey that each newspaper is still read on average by 2.9 people. In addition, the local newspaper is still considered the number one source for community news, beating television and the internet as the reader’s choice for local news.

As my term ended on the KPA board, our industry held our annual meeting and convention. The Community Voice came away with 14 awards and our first ever General Excellence Award, earning third place in our division. Earning awards is exciting and I was ecstatic to receive the General Excellence nod. It means even more, however, to hear from our readers who value our work. We care about serving our community as your local newspaper. We love to hear from you, whether it be to compliment our work or to suggest we make a change.

The way I see it, we are in this together. We work hard to report about our community because we love our community. Thank you for allowing us to continue to serve you.

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