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Newspapers vital for community

October 14, 2013 

National Newspaper Week – Oct. 6-12 – is a good time to offer a fresh perspective on the newspaper industry.

To paraphrase what Mark Twain said about the premature printing of his obituary, let me say that the reports of the death of newspapers in our state and nation are greatly exaggerated.

Many newspaper media companies today also offer news in a variety of digital options: websites, text alerts, mobile sites, social media sites, apps and more.

And regardless of how you get your news, it still originates with your local newspaper.

As a matter of fact, South Carolina today has more than 100 newspapers, including 16 dailies and 93 vital community newspapers.

Each week, more than 2.5 million people read a S.C. newspaper.

A recent survey conducted by the National Newspaper Association has a few points I’d like to share:

• 71 percent of the respondents read a community newspaper at least once a week. (A similar study found that 7 in 10 Americans read the paper in print or online each week. And it is important to note that 59 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 read newspaper media weekly.)

• More than 70 percent believe the accuracy and the coverage of their local paper is either “good” or “excellent.”

• 69 percent agreed that newspapers provide valuable local shopping and advertising information.

Newspapers are part of the fabric that builds strong communities across our state.

From high school sports to weddings and obituaries, from police coverage to reporting on government, from grocery ads to want ads ... newspapers are there looking out for you.

One of the prime functions of newspapers in our democratic society is to be the watchdog of government and people in power. And South Carolina newspapers are doing their jobs.

From an unreported tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood to the hacking of tax records from the Department of Revenue, newspapers broke the stories and uncovered all the facts.

A newspaper challenged the secrecy of the state Department of Public Safety to obtain records relating to the DUI arrest of an elected official. Another newspaper persistently reported on the hiring practices of a school district that resulted in numerous friends and relatives of the school board chair being hired. The paper also reported that the son of the board chair routinely used district vehicles to run personal errands while on the clock for work. Newspapers have been vigilant in reporting on the misuse of political campaign funds and instances where public officials and employees use public money as if it were their own.

Like all businesses in these tough economic times, newspapers have had to deal with cost-cutting measures. Still, daily and weekly newspapers remain the only true mass media in almost every market in South Carolina.

The times they are a-changin’, but you can still get a newspaper delivered to you for less than the price of a cup of coffee. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Bill Rogers is executive director

of the S.C. Press Association.

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