Newspapers: The Foundation of Vibrant Communities

My daughter, Ada, smiles big for her newspaper debut!

Common perception holds that millennials no longer value newspapers as a key source for information. Well, as a millennial, I beg to differ and in observation of National Newspaper Week, I would like to thank newspapers for playing a vital role in the health of rural communities.

It’s morning. I pad to the front door, swing it open and let the cool air smack me in the face. My toes touch the goose bump-inducing concrete and I scoop up a bundle of black and white paper at my feet. As I plop down on my couch with my steaming cup of joe, the pages start to unfold. A smile breaks out because right away I spot my neighbor’s daughter on the front page, right under the heading “Smile of the Day.” Now, if that’s not a good way to start the day, I don’t know what is.

My eyes scan the front page to see a myriad of information – some local, some regional, some national. Some feel good. Some hard-hitting. All important. All about community.

Newspapers inform us about happenings in our area so that we can fully participate in community life. They also help strengthen community ties by showing us how we relate to one another (I got three additional copies of my daughter’s newspaper photo from coworkers!). Community newspapers play an important, unifying role in many rural places.

This week we’re celebrating the newspaper’s role in community with National Newspaper Week (NNW). The theme, “Newspapers: The Foundation of Vibrant Communities.” is particularly fitting because, in rural, we really do value the vital role a newspaper plays in the health of a community.

A recent survey distributed as part of the Oklahoma Community Health Needs Assessment program found that the majority (42%) of respondents living in rural relied on the newspaper as their primary source of information. Additionally, a 2010 survey for the National Newspaper Association showed that 73 percent of respondents read a local newspaper every week. Our 2013 Rural Pulse survey showed that, in Minnesota, 87 percent of rural respondents preferred the news media over the Internet (82%).

The numbers don’t lie. Rural people see newspapers as glue that binds community together. This “glue” was mentioned in a NNW editorial written by a Minnesota journalist Keith Anderson:

It does take some effort to create a sense of community, though. It doesn’t happen without the investment of people who care. And it’s always more difficult when there isn’t a unifying bond, that one source that will always be there to offer a place to share ideas, offer constructive criticism, examine difficult topics, share accomplishments, remember loved ones, experience setbacks and revel in victories.

Community journalism has played this role for decades.

As this snippet shows, newspapers not only report, they drive community conversation. This idea is rooted in the Editors & Publishers Program. Offered by Minnesota Newspaper Association, and modeled after the Blandin Community Leadership Program, the program is for rural Minnesota editors and publishers “to learn the power they have to frame issues and mobilize action and ultimately helps them to advance the health and vibrancy of their communities.”

Vibrant. Rural. Community. Now that’s something we care about here at Blandin Foundation!

Thank you to our newspaper partners in Minnesota and beyond for holding up, and contributing to, stories of vibrant rural communities.

For all of you living in a rural, keep an eye out for ways your newspaper advances community vibrancy. Post links to stories (or comments about them) below!

Enjoy National Newspaper Week.

Stay tuned in to Blandin Foundation as we work with newspaper partners around the state to showcase acts of rural community leadership.

 

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