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GUEST EDITORIAL: Newspapers still top choice for news

Those who believe newspapers are becoming a relic of the past should update their thinking.

Survey after survey shows that today’s local newspapers are still highly regarded and heavily relied upon for providing information that residents trust and demand.

People still list newspapers as their top choice for getting local news, according to a new survey conducted for the National Newspaper Association that was published in the June 2017 PubAux. A total of 33 percent of those responding said they preferred newspapers for news about their local community – the highest percentage of any other source of information. For community news, local newspapers beat the Internet by 3 to 1, which only received 11 percent of the audience share. Social media came in at just 5 percent.

When asked if there were any other sources where respondents got their local news, the majority, 19 percent, said no.

People are still reading newspapers they can hold in their hands, page through and keep for future reference. A total of 56 percent of respondents said they read a print newspaper that covers their specific community. Four percent read their local paper online only and 7 percent read it online and in print, bringing the total to 68 percent who read a local newspaper.

Another interesting part of the survey shed light on just how loyal newspaper readers are. The majority of respondents, 30 percent, have been reading their local newspapers for more than 30 years.

Why are people sticking with local newspapers? According to the survey, a total of 84 percent said they read their local paper for local news, information and obituaries. Just 2 percent read them for state and federal news.

Other interesting survey results:

– More than half, 61 percent, read their local paper for school news somewhat to very often. Forty-six percent read it for local sports somewhat often to very often. And 60 percent read their local paper for the editorials or letters to the editor somewhat often to very often.

– More than half, 51 percent, read the public notices in the paper somewhat often to very often. A total of 81 percent read public notices at least some of the time. This compares to just 25 percent who said they visit their local government website somewhat often to very often.

– Seventy-five percent said they look forward to reading their paper. A total of 79 percent said they rely on it for local news and information.

– Although political candidates tend to spend most of their ad budgets on TV before elections, it’s the local newspaper where people go to learn about those running for office. Forty percent said they use the newspaper to help make up their minds about candidates and elections.

The results of the survey shouldn’t cause community newspapers to rest on their laurels and assume their readership will always be there. The Echo Press is always striving to do better, to give readers the information and insights they seek. If we fall short, let us know. We’re open to ideas and suggestions.  

We don’t cite the results of the survey to brag. We bring them up so the next time you hear someone say that nobody reads newspapers anymore, you’ll know the real story.

This editorial was written by the Alexandria (Minn.) Echo Press, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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