Tuesday, September 22, 2009

‘Shop local’ includes local media

"Don’t want a newspaper? Buy one anyway," urges a video produced by Slate V, reposted in Utne Magazine's online media blog (archived under July 2009 at www.utne.com/blogs/blog.aspx?blogid=34). "For less than the price of a cup of coffee per day, you can feed and clothe a newspaper professional."

The video is modeled on those television commercials that urge support for a child overseas at a cost of mere pennies a day and while it's heavy on irony, it delivers an essential truth: Journalists are full-time professionals who live and work in their local communities.

Our local businesses encourage county residents to "Shop locally first." Why plan a trip out of town when a comparable attraction can be found right here in Lake County? Why drive to Ukiah or Santa Rosa to shop without first checking the selections at local stores? I wish to argue that "Shop locally first" includes supporting the local media.

When I visit local businesses that sell newspapers to the public, I pay attention to their selections. It's nice to know where in Lake County to find the North Bay Bohemian, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee or the New York Times, but my primary interest is in seeing which businesses sell copies of the local newspapers.

I am disinclined to support a local business whose newspaper offerings are exclusively out-of-county, because I wonder about the extent that this business really invests in its local community.

None of the papers I've mentioned above will carry a Lake County headline, except for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat -- and even then, it tends to focus only on the sordid and sensational. For a genuine look at the first draft of local history, you need to read local media: the Lake County Record-Bee and the Clear Lake Observer American.

People argue that news is free online, but please consider if that is really true. Unless you are viewing news headlines online from a computer terminal at the library, you're still paying for the privilege. Let's say a utility provider offers wireless Internet access at $49 a month. It breaks down to $1.63 per day during a 30-day month. That's more than twice what you pay for the local daily newspaper, which costs 50 cents per weekday and 75 cents on Saturday if purchased on the newsstand.

To the extent that your $49 stays in the local community, none of it goes toward the salaries of people who actually produce the news.

In contrast, every newspaper subscription or single-copy sale directly supports local news at every stage of delivery, each department in the newspaper plant. The people who work for Lake County Publishing also live and shop in the local community.

The same goes for advertising, whether in our print or online editions. When an international religious association considered its advertising strategy for 2009, it opted for "Google AdWord" announcements.

The association was courting a specific demographic that was likely to care about the topics that the "Google AdWords" were tied to. But wouldn't it be alternatively viable to purchase ads in local newspapers that serve the communities in which its congregations are found? Especially when newspaper professionals may contribute church tithes among their other community investments?

When newspaper professionals are not on the job, they pay club membership dues. They volunteer for local nonprofits. They enjoy recreational opportunities. The salaries we earn enable us to contribute to our local economy in monetary and non-monetary ways.

Newspaper professionals are as invested in our community as anyone else who depends upon the Lake County economy for his or her support. So when you allign your spending habits to "Shop locally first," please remember the local media.

Published Sept. 22, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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