September 13, 2011

Los Angeles Times
We’re so busy reporting the dismal quarterly earnings reports of big newspaper companies that we forget about the thousands of weekly newspapers that Judy Muller says are not just surviving, but thriving. “Some 8,000 weekly papers still hit the front porches and mailboxes in small towns across America every week and, for some reason, they’ve been left out of the conversation,” writes the USC Annenberg journalism prof.

Most of these newspapers are not uncovering major scandals on a regular basis. That’s not what keeps them selling at such a good clip; it’s the steady stream of news that readers can only get from that publication — the births, deaths, crimes, sports and local shenanigans that only matter to the 5,000 or so souls in their circulation area.

It’s more than a little ironic that small-town papers have been thriving by practicing what the mainstream media are now preaching. “Hyper-localism,” “citizen journalism,” “advocacy journalism” — these are some of the latest buzzwords of the profession.

The “holy trinity” of weekly papers, according to Muller, consists of high school sports, obituaries (“where there’s no need to speak ill of the dead because everyone in town already knows if the deceased was a jerk”) and the police blotter.

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From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August…
Jim Romenesko

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