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1 Introduction It has been a little less than two decades since the Internet revolution began, and yet the change to the news landscape—and the business model that supported it—has been seismic. In the 1930s, economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction” to describe how a new technology makes one industry obsolete while creating the opportunity for another to subsume or replace it—which is exactly what is occurring in the news business today. In purely economic terms, resources flow away from the aging industry (in this case, newspapers) to a vibrant successor or successors (search engines, social networks, blogs, or portals). Something of an optimist, Schumpeter believed that creative destruction was capitalism ’s way of “reshuffling the deck” and renewing itself. The recent experience of other industries that have faced creative destruction —from software companies to financial service providers—leads to this unmistakable conclusion: newspapers, both large and small, need to re-create themselves for the twenty-first century. If they do not develop a plan for confronting and accommodating today’s very intrusive and disruptive technological innovations, they risk being lost in the “reshuffling of the deck” and going the way of black-and-white motion pictures and other outdated media forms, consigned to the periphery with severely diminished prestige, influence, and profitability. Newspapers, of course, differ from other industries in two ways: their traditional business model and their historic mission. In contrast to other manufacturing or retail industries, which make a profit by selling directly to customers, newspapers have traditionally acquired readers at “below the cost” of producing a paper and then made a profit by selling access to these readers to local advertisers. Because the creative destruction wrought by the Internet has undermined the traditional business model of news organizations by siphoning off both readers and advertisers, the critical and unique historic mission of Introduction 2 newspapers—informing and educating the public instead of just maximizing profit—is now in jeopardy. This situation has been observed and documented by a number of governmental and nonprofit organizations. One 2010 report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, commissioned by the Knight Foundation, warned that the financial pressures that this disruption has inflicted on newspapers “could pose a crisis for democracy” in the near future. That report also noted that the “watchdog” role of the nation’s smaller “community newspapers” becomes even more important as larger regional and metro news organizations pull back circulation and coverage from outlying communities. According to the most recent census, there are more than 55,000 legally or politically recognized entities in this country, ranging from urbanized counties to vast rural townships. Since there are only 1,500 or so daily newspapers, the Knight report reasoned, “[i]t follows that hundreds, if not thousands, of American communities receive only scant journalistic attention on a daily basis.” Therefore, it is vital for the health of our grassroots democracy that the country’s community newspapers find a path to renewal. Traditionally, papers with less than 15,000 circulation have been categorized as community newspapers. Using this definition, there are 8,000 community newspapers in the United States today, the vast majority of which are published on a weekly or semiweekly schedule. But in a digital age, when print circulation for almost all newspapers is dropping yearly— and an increasing number of readers are accessing a paper’s digital edition only—that definition seems limiting and out-of-date. Many daily newspapers in small and midsized markets, for example—especially those with a circulation of less than 100,000—also position themselves as “community newspapers.” The same is true of papers serving ethnic populations in cities around the country. Therefore, this book has used a much more expansive and modern definition of community newspapers, one based not on a publication’s circulation but rather on its mission and the characteristics of the markets it depends on for revenue. This definition encompasses newspapers that serve geographic communities as well as those bound together through a shared affiliation or ethnic identity. It includes nondailies ranging in size from a 7,000-circulation weekly in West Virginia to a 150,000circulation Spanish-language weekly for Chicago’s Hispanic residents. It also includes daily newspapers serving small and midsized markets, ranging from an 8,000-circulation daily in a coastal North Carolina community Introduction 3 to a 90,000-circulation publication in Salt Lake City, Utah, that serves a community of readers and advertisers who value...


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