I noticed recently that some weekly community newspapers owned by the Los Angeles Times have been shut down. That makes me very sad.
One of the problems that have really hurt small, independent papers, is that the leadership in these papers stopped being passed on from generation to generation. The children of many locally owned and run community newspapers have decided not to get into the business. Look what it has done to one of the biggest papers, the Los Angeles Times. Under the Chandler and Otis families, the paper thrived. When the Times was sold to the second-rate Chicago Tribune company, it began to head downhill.
Of course, on the other side of the coin, the Hearst Family kept the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in the Hearst Family, but the children of William did not have the stuff to keep it going. For a couple of years, I worked as a division editor of 13 community weekly newspapers in the San Fernando Valley, owned by Hearst, and saw first-hand how large dailies can really do a poor job in trying to serve small communities. Hearst was a company in decline. It eventually lost all those weeklies and the Herald Examiner itself a few years later.
All dailies are in real trouble today, both because nobody respects anymore the giant traditional leaders, like the Times of New York and the Times of Los Angeles and the Washington Post, and that dailies are no longer timely because Americans get the nuts and bolts of the news from internet sites, in a timely manner, while tomorrow's daily newspaper's newspapers will be six or eight or more hours old.
With good locally owned leadership, community newspapers like the ones I worked for throughout my career in newspapers in the last century (I never imagined referring to things I did as having happened in the "last century," but here we are) I thought would survive because the news these papers focused on, local schools, local clubs and organizations, local obits, local government, etc. was theirs and theirs alone to cover.
When I became editor and eventually editor/associate publisher of the Banning/Beaumont Record Gazette in 1997, our community was still reeling from the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Anthony Martinez a year or so earlier.
I noted in an early editorial, that the strength of a community newspaper like ours was that, yes, when a 9-year-old child in our town is abducted and murdered, the TV stations and the big newspapers all send reporters to town to cover the story.
However, when a 9-year-old child in our town wins the school district spelling bee, only one newspaper, ours, will be there to cover the story, take his or her photo, and put it on Page 1.
That was our strength and is still the strength of small, community newspapers in small towns all across America.
It is a tougher challenge here in Southern California, for example, because so many of our communities all run together and there is simply much less home town community spirit as there once was.
People, so often in areas like this, don't even know what city in which they live, or if they live in a city at all, when they are in an unincorporated area.
So many people believe the city's name on their mailing address is the city in which they live.
No, the name on their mailing address is just the name of their post office.
I don’t have an answer, but I call on the leadership at small, community newspapers, like the Record Gazette, to keep fighting to get that local news into your pages and on your website.
It is crushing for a community to lose its community newspaper.
You know, the one with the community’s name on it.
The Record Gazette appears strong to me.
That is a good thing for our community.
Charles G. Ferrell, Beaumont