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Newspapers still community cornerstones

The Inter-Mountain part of National Newspaper Week celebration

October 9, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

The Inter-Mountain joins with publications throughout the United States in celebrating National Newspaper Week, which runs through Saturday.

A longstanding tradition, the week is sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers and has been observed since 1940.

This year's theme is "Newspapers - The Cornerstone of Your Community." It showcases the integral role newspapers continue to play in the communities they serve, said Heather Goodwin Henline, Inter-Mountain publisher and general manager.

"Newspapers provide unparalleled, comprehensive reporting that isn't available from other media outlets, and we are able to do this across a variety of platforms - from our print edition, to mobile apps for readers on the go, to the Internet," Goodwin Henline said, noting such coverage is a constant on which readers can rely.

"While TV and radio play a role as well, newspapers always have provided more in-depth story analysis. It goes beyond the quick sound bite or simply the basics. We don't just swoop in to hit the highlights every now and again, either.

"Newspapers provide ongoing, committed coverage of government issues, sports, schools and other topics. Daily at The Inter-Mountain - as we have since 1892 - we shine a spotlight to: keep government open for all; ensure our communities have access to news of vital importance; and effect positive change through thought-provoking editorials and other opinion pieces," she said.

Every newspaper is a unique and direct reflection of the people it serves, Goodwin Henline said. The Inter-Mountain takes pride in that fact.

"From that first birth announcement from the hospital to an obituary celebrating the final chapter of one's life, newspapers provide an interactive journey for our readers. Newspapers are of the community, for the community and sometimes now by the community in this modern age where anyone can contribute a story or photo," she said. "Readers build a relationship with our paper, and our paper builds one with them."

There's inherent value in that and in what The Inter-Mountain is able to give back as a community partner, Goodwin Henline said.

Inter-Mountain Contributing Editor Matt Burdette said newspapers providing such unique and locally focused coverage has had a positive impact on the industry, something illustrated by a recent study through the West Virginia Press Association.

The WVPA, after collecting print and online reader estimates from the state's 22 daily publications and comparing them to totals from 1982, finds that newspaper industry readership has increased 11 percent during the last 30 years.

As part of its recent annual convention, the WVPA collected the data for presentation to its membership. In a poll of daily newspapers, the WVPA asked the newspapers for their print circulation and their number of unique daily online viewers, a number that counts a website viewer only one time regardless of how many times that viewer visits the site per day. To provide contrast, the WVPA compared the numbers to 1982: the same year Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and the concept of a worldwide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks called the Internet was introduced.

In 1982, West Virginia had a population of 1,949,644 and the state's daily newspapers were print-only with a daily circulation of 495,431. That information is based on the U.S. Census numbers and the WVPA 1982 Newspaper Directory.

Today, West Virginia has a population of 1,855,354 and the state's daily newspapers, which now offer a multimedia product, have an estimated daily print circulation and unique online viewer total of 548,370. That information is according to U.S. Census numbers, the WVPA 2012 Newspaper Directory and online estimates from the state's daily newspapers.

"An 11 percent growth - especially from an already dominating period in terms of media influence - is exciting. We should also note that with the state's population declining in that 30-year period, that growth in readership means our newspapers are reaching an additional 4 percent of the total West Virginia population each day," said Don Smith, WVPA executive director.

Smith said he thinks those numbers are conservative in that the figures don't reflect the fact that, in many households, two or three people read the same newspaper or use the same computer to view newspaper websites, or that newspapers in businesses and offices are often shared and passed along to the next patron. He also noted that the employment and reader/viewer numbers don't yet reflect the totals for the state's 59 weekly newspapers. The WVPA plans to gather the same data from the state's 59 weekly newspapers later this year.

"No one can dispute the impact of the Internet on the newspaper industry; we have noticed, however, that most analysis only addresses the change in print circulation. We must also look at the growth of online viewers," Smith said. "The development of online readership has dramatically increased the newspaper industry's total customer base and its influence.

"West Virginia newspapers are getting their message to more people each day and a greater percentage of the population than they were 30 years ago, a time when newspapers were widely considered the dominant media force in West Virginia. That's a story West Virginia newspapers need to tell more often," Smith said. "Our readers, advertisers, local officials and leaders need to know we continue to build market share and influence in West Virginia. The WVPA thought National Newspaper Week was the right time to share the story."

Overall, there are 81 newspapers in West Virginia, located in all 55 counties, according to the WVPA. Of those newspapers, 22 are daily publications. The same WVPA poll of daily newspapers found that 2,950 people directly receive income from the production or delivery of daily newspapers in West Virginia.

"How important are 2,950 jobs in today's economy? By way of comparison, state officials are still ecstatic - after granting a $20 million incentive package - to have a Macy's distribution center in Berkeley County that will employ 1,200 people," Smith said. "The newspaper industry offers jobs and careers. The positions are stable, varied and located in some of the most beautiful places in West Virginia. (They are) great places to raise a family and build a life.

"We think there are many reasons to celebrate National Newspaper Week," Smith said. "As the WVPA promotes, 'Newspapers are good business in West Virginia.'"

Burdette and Goodwin Henline agree, with both noting newspapers' relevance since the beginning of the printing industry, through today and years into the future.

"Throughout history, newspapers and newspapermen and women have chronicled the major events of our time, all the while keeping a keen eye on the daily goings on in the small communities and towns that connect us all," Burdette said. "Newspapers have a unique way of uniting a community and provoking action. Without local newspapers like The Inter-Mountain, many community, social and economic issues would go unnoticed. It is for this reason that newspapers will remain the watchdogs for their communities - informing their readership and calling them to action. Newspapers truly are the backbone and pillars of our society."

"And they will continue to be for years to come," Goodwin Henline said.



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