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Publisher's column: Local newspapers keep communities thriving

There is a myth that somehow social media platforms and other electronic services are replacing what traditional newspapers have done. But, that myth is simply wrong. Facebook isn’t going to send someone to cover the local city council meeting. Twitter isn’t going to attend the local high school’s events to photograph and write about them. And TikTok isn’t going to share the news of a loved one’s death with the entire community.

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Devlyn Brooks is the new publisher for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, Perham Focus and Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Vicki Gerdes / Forum News Service
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We’ve all seen the “Shop Local'' campaigns that encourage us to shop in our hometown stores, thus keeping the dollars we spend circulating in the community. Besides supporting the businesses run by our friends and neighbors, it's just good sense to keep local dollars at home as much as possible.

This week I’d also like to encourage you to take part in another similar campaign: I’d call it “Read Local.”

This week (Oct. 2-8) marks the 82nd annual “National Newspaper Week,” an effort to recognize the service of newspapers and their employees throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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To me, someone who has spent just shy of three decades working in community newspapers, this awareness week means much more.

It’s a validation of the hard work and dedication displayed by the many people on our team who dedicate their professional lives to informing, educating and entertaining the communities we serve … and live in!

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But it’s also a celebration of the importance of a community newspaper.
There is much talk about the supposed “demise” of community journalism. But you’d be wrong to buy into it. The facts are that community newspapers have more readership now than they’ve ever had in their histories. If you add up the thousands of readers of our printed newspapers, with audiences we attract to our websites, our social media channels and our special sections, we reach more people than ever before. … But unfortunately, that story doesn’t garner the attention that doom and gloom headlines do.

Your local newspaper has been here throughout your lifetime. There’s a good chance that your birth was published in a newspaper, that your high school achievements were chronicled in a newspaper, that you may have looked for your first jobs and apartments in a newspaper, and now that you turn to a newspaper for news about your schools, taxes and local safety. You’ve had access to all of these important services that a newspaper provides because generations have understood the value of an informed community, and supported their local newspapers.

There is a myth that somehow social media platforms and other electronic services are replacing what traditional newspapers have done. But, that myth is simply wrong. Facebook isn’t going to send someone to cover the local city council meeting. Twitter isn’t going to attend the local high school’s events to photograph and write about them. And TikTok isn’t going to share the news of a loved one’s death with the entire community.

That’s because newspapers serve a vital function in the marketplace of our communities. There’s no other service in a community that reaches the mass audience that a newspaper does. And yet, our services are nimble enough that we can reach very targeted audiences as well through our cutting-edge digital products.

Sure, I am biased because I have the good fortune of working with a talented team of professionals striving to publish the best community newspapers they can. I am proud of the work our team members do!

But my passion for community journalism goes beyond just an affinity for the people I work alongside. My passion for local newspapers derives from my knowledge that it is vital for a community to have a newspaper if it is going to thrive. Newspapers help people make buying decisions; help voters decide who to vote for in local elections; document the achievements of our local students; assist local officials in communicating with the public; and record the first drafts of history in a community.

So, on this “National Newspaper Week,” I want to say thank you to all of the subscribers, our business partners and the local leaders who support us, allowing us to make this weekly miracle we call the “newspaper” happen. Without all of your support, we’d struggle.

And if you haven’t picked up a copy of your local newspaper in a while, or checked out our website or social media channels, then please do! I’m willing to bet you’ll discover something informative, educational and/or entertaining this week!

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Remember, shop local, eat local, drink local … and read local! All of these efforts will help to keep our communities a thriving place to live! Thank you!

Devlyn Brooks is the publisher of the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Perham Focus and Wadena Pioneer Journal, and their associated websites. He can be reached at dbrooks@dlnewspapers.com or at 218-844-1451.

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