Newspapers are number one

Monday, January 16, 2012

Newspapers are the number one source of local news.

Except for perhaps a few well-known papers that market themselves as national, every newspaper in the land considers local news its bread and butter. Consider all the newspapers in the country. Their combined news staffs dwarf those of any other medium.

At virtually any function that is considered to be the potential source for news, newspaper reporters are there, while other news media have to cherry pick for the juiciest plums.

Other media usually get their tips on the top breaking news stories of the day from what comes out in print, or from what shows up on newspapers' websites.

It is readily apparent near and far that radio and television get a majority of their "news" from the newspaper.

In the same sense that all politics is local, so is all news. It is the impact on a local reader that makes a happening newsworthy. Good editors instruct their writers to evaluate events by how they stand to affect the reader. Part of good news coverage is taking the time, and the words, to explain why a news item is significant. That can be tough for electronic media, which are forced to concentrate on brief, punchy reports always lacking detail.

Newspapers have the advantage of all that space. The number of words on the front page of a daily U.S. newspaper exceeds the number of words of an entire 30-minute network newscast, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has calculated.

Here are some more factoids from NAA:

The Super Bowl attracts about 49 percent of U.S. households. In Super Bowl week, 70 percent of U.S. adults read a newspaper.

Fifteen million adults used Twitter in the past month, while 165 million read a newspaper in print or online in the past WEEK.

In the last month, 82 percent of adults took some action as a result of newspaper advertising.

CNN founder Ted Turner once famously predicted that printed newspapers would disappear within 10 years. His prediction was made 30 years ago. With a nod to Mr. Turner, it should be acknowledged that an increasing number of people get their news from a newspaper's website rather than from its print edition. But newspapers are no junior players in cyberworld. NAA says that the leading local website in the top 25 markets across the nation are those of the local newspapers.

But aren't newspapers fading? Well, NAA says newspaper subscription cancellation rates dropped 42 percent in the last decade. Ink on paper is still king.