Why I added some national news

Bill Forhan, Publisher

I am sure you have noticed by now that I have added some national news coverage to the pages of my weekly newspapers. Since I added the 2 pages of material from The Epoch Times, I have received a total of seven comments from subscribers. Those comments are split evenly with three supporting the move and four opposing it. Two have threatened to cancel their subscriptions if I continue. I have only received one letter to the editor. You can read it in the letters section.
Last week I pulled the two pages in a few of my newspapers because coverage of our high school graduations and a surge in advertising required more space than we had planned for on Friday before the Memorial Day Holiday and because of the holiday it was too late to change the press order.
So, the big question is why did I decide to include this coverage and why did I choose to use The Epoch Times? Those are fair questions.
I have been in the newspaper business now for 41 years. It has gone through tremendous change over that time. Some good, but much not so good. My biggest concern is the consolidation of the news industry into the hands of corporations – large corporations. Over the last 30 years there has been a growing consolidation of family owned newspapers into the hands of a small group of publicly owned chains that are much more concerned about the price of their stock than the depth and quality of their news coverage. I began my newspaper career as a low level executive in one of those chains – LEE Enterprises, Inc. They were one of the better chains. After 11 years, I left their employ to work for a family owned newspaper in Southern California. In short, during my 41 years in this business I have seen the deterioration of newspapers across the industry.
Nearly 21 years ago I bought three struggling weekly newspapers right here in North Central Washington. My wife and I have worked hard to build them into viable local newspapers that focus on news that is most important to the communities we serve – local news.
Major newspapers across the country have been forced to cut back editions and pages as advertising revenues have dwindled because of competition from the Internet. As a result, their “news holes” have dwindled mightily and staff is continually reduced. The inevitable result is a decline in complete news coverage – what the industry now calls a growing news desert.
To make matters worse, today in this country there remains only one national news syndicate – the Associated Press. The AP collects and distributes news stories from around the country to its member news organizations. The result is that whether it is intentional or accidental the news that gets published in most larger newspapers is the same. It is filtered by journalistic competition if not outright political favoritism and tends to be the same wherever you find it.
Now I am sure that those who are reading this are asking, but what about TV, radio and the Internet? It is a fair question. I watch TV. I listen to the radio but I utilize those media differently because at heart I am a newspaper guy. The first thing I would say is TV and radio both have the same limitation – time. That limitation causes them to choose the stories they cover based on what’s “breaking.” More importantly, they often do not have all of the important facts and usually dismiss the background because there is just not “time” to cover the issues in depth. The other problem is they choose what are the most important stories to cover. You can’t skip over the headlines to pick the ones you find most important to you.
The Internet is a completely different animal. You can search for any topic you would like to know more about – great! The problem is it is the wild, wild world of the Internet. There are credible sources but there are also all kinds of propaganda, rumor and dis-information. The Internet is not subject to the same rules of libel and slander that traditional media are bound to observe. You get to sort it out for yourself. And of course, every time you log on to a topic you can bet that someone is tracking what you read or watch.
All of this brings me back to why did I add national news. Clearly, I do not have the staff or financial resources needed to cover national news events and single handedly take on the task of trying to fix the news desert problem. But 40 years in this business has taught me there are a lot of ways newspapers could change the way they do business in order to address issues like a growing “news desert.”
There are far more small towns with weekly newspapers than there are larger metro newspapers. So, I began thinking about what if those weeklies started running some quality national news. I contacted AP but the issue is I would be running essentially the same content that all of the other AP newspapers ran – at a significant increase in my cost of operations.
Then I called Epoch Times. I have been reading their stories for some time. I found their stories were well written and much more objective than most of what I read in other mainstream newspapers in this country.
I asked them if they would be interested in an experiment. What I proposed is that each week they would provide me with two complete pages of national news to run in my weekly newspapers. They could use my newspapers as a way to promote the distribution of their news to small newspapers around the country. I pay nothing for the service while they work to see if they can develop the program into a syndicated product they can sell. They loved the idea and agreed. So, each week they send me two pages formatted for our newspapers.
I have agreed to test this model for one year. That will give them time to see if it works for them and for me to test my readers interest in the additional content.
Newspapers are not produced to satisfy the interests of any single subscriber. There is always content that an individual subscriber will find offensive. They always have the option to ignore those sections. My focus will continue to be to produce a quality local newspaper that informs our communities on important local issues.
Adding this new content only costs me more for printing extra pages. I plan to continue to test this until next May. I am open to your feedback.


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