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by | Mar 14, 2024 | Opinion

Saddened. Embarrassed. Determined.

These three words evoke distinct feelings and emotions.

In the context of an opinion piece we ran in the paper four and a half years ago, they described the aftermath of a community that lost its newspaper.

After 130 years in business, in October 2019 the Commerce Journal ceased publication and the town’s then-mayor, Wyman Williams, felt partially responsible.

He felt so strongly about the void left in Commerce with the demise of its long-time newspaper that he wanted to do everything he could to make sure other communities don’t suffer the same loss.

Unfortunately, Mr. Williams is probably not the only person in this nation that has these feelings when it comes to losing a newspaper.

According to research, since 2004 an estimated 2,600 local newspapers in America have closed or merged. Since early 2020 about 360 newspapers have closed.

This loss, which is so profound, created a stark name, “The Expanding News Desert.”

The University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media compiled stories about this desert that are worth reading.

Northwestern University is also tracking local journalism across the country via the State of Local News Project

When you are finished reading this piece, go to usnewsdeserts.com and localnewsinitiative.northwestern.edu to understand what is happening to newspapers in America and how it affects you.

Trade your social media time for time on these sites and I promise it’ll be a good investment in furthering your knowledge base.

When I first read the letter from Mr. Williams, I felt two of the emotions he feels. I do not feel embarrassment. I traded that emotion for frustration long ago.

Mr. Williams was absolutely correct in his feelings. Each elected official, chamber executive, city manager, school superintendent, business owner…. you see where I’m going… should feel that way if their town loses its newspaper.

I’ve been a newspaper publisher in Eastern Collin County since 1993. I’ve been in the newspaper industry for longer. I was involved in the 1991 closure of one of the larger newspapers in the U.S., the Dallas Times Herald.

During my time in this industry, I’ve discovered what is needed by many towns and cities. Community.

Local newspapers can help build what city leaders want. Community.

Unlike social media, local newspapers provide answers to citizens without bias and without prejudice. A local newspaper can do this because it doesn’t belong to a company, to city hall or the school district. It belongs to its readers, the community.

Without a strong newspaper, a strong community cannot exist.

I’ve written in the past about how many readers of our newspaper don’t actually realize they are reading our news. They consume our news digitally and may not realize how a story or photo came into existence. Your local newspaper puts out a lot of information that would not exist otherwise.

A newspaper covers all aspects of a community and by doing so weaves its stories into the fabric that makes a town or city a community.

We’re hearing a lot these days about the need to shop local, to support businesses.

I’d like to ask your help in doing the same with this newspaper. This newspaper is a local business, and like any other local business, we, too, need your support. For about $40 a year you receive both the print and digital version of this product and you’ll help make your community stronger.

Years ago, I borrowed a saying from a North Texas publisher that resonates even more strongly today.

“Every community deserves the best newspaper it can afford.”

I am not embarrassed to state this, not one bit.

With your help we can create a community oasis, not a desert.

For more stories about the Murphy community see the next print, or digital edition of the Murphy Monitor. Subscribe today and support local journalism.

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