Just a few short years ago, in June of 2013, I walked across the stage at Northwestern University and graduated from journalism school. Since 2013 wasn’t that long ago, I remember many of my college courses. I learned about media law, got a crash course in journalism ethics and was tested on the Associated Press stylebook.
What we didn’t often discuss with our professors was the importance of journalism. We spent hours, days, weeks talking about how journalism is changing – instead of solely learning to produce great articles, we learned to film video, record audio, craft interactive graphics online and utilize social media to our advantage. While that education was helpful and practical, it left a hole in my education.
What about newspapers? What about print journalism? What is the importance of a physical newspaper in this electronic age?
Next week, from Oct. 2 through 8, is National Newspaper Week. NNW is coordinated by Newspaper Association Managers, Inc., a consortium of North American trade associations representing the industry on a state and provincial, regional and national level. Throughout the week, the journalism community will pause to recognize the importance of newspapers and celebrate their significance. I hope our readers of The Madisonian will join us in considering the importance of our local paper and the value it adds to our community.
Many of my classmates moved to New York City or Washington, D.C., to work as copy editors, social media experts, T.V. producers and more. To my knowledge, I’m the only 2013 graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications who ended up with a career at a hyper-local, weekly newspaper. I am fortunate to live in Madison County, a community that supports our local newspaper. In the journalism world, news of layoffs and folding companies is not uncommon. That is true not only in big cities, but small towns. Our neighboring community of West Yellowstone is an example. This summer, Big Sky Publishing announced they would stop publishing the West Yellowstone News because the company could “no longer afford to keep producing the weekly newspaper.” Fortunately, Erin Leonard and Susanne Hill, who own and publish The Madisonian, know the importance of a local news source in a small community. They’re in the process of establishing the West Yellowstone Star to serve that need for news and information.
Many consumers expect news for free, at their fingertips. But the reality of living in rural areas means that is not usually possible, especially if you want current and accurate reporting. Though our neighboring “big city” papers, The Montana Standard and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, sometimes touch on local news in the Ruby and Madison valleys, they don’t do it regularly and they often do it without having someone on the ground, actually in our communities.
I applaud their efforts, but they cannot replace the value and benefits of a local newspaper. At The Madisonian, Caitlin Avey and I live in the community, attend meetings, take part in activities and are acquainted with the citizens and stories we write. Though we exist to hold our county and town governments accountable for their actions, we also place a high priority on celebrating our residents, organizations, events and more.
We think what we do each week is important work, and hope all of you feel the same.