You have to wonder just when newspapers lost their way. Many people say the decline in space for news, the shrinking of editorial staffs and the reduction of publication cycles to only three days a week is the result of the biggest disruption to journalism in years — the emergence of the Internet.
While that is probably true, I’ve been wondering if it also wasn’t the day newspapers got too big for their britches and stopped running community news on their pages.
This came to mind the other day when I was in the attic trying to make sense of the boxes scattered across the floor. In one of them, I found a scrapbook from my early years, and there on the first page was a yellowed clipping from The Sharon (Pa.) Herald, a simple birth announcement. A few pages back — and 27 years later — was a full-fledged article, this one describing my wedding.
Without knocking the rewarding speed of the Internet or the emotional punch of images on TV, there is something to be said for the reflective and permanent value of print.
The Sharon Herald with a circulation of 17,000 is considered a small daily paper. It serves a circle of towns 75 miles north of Pittsburgh. You can’t really compare the content it carried to big metro dailies like The Philadelphia Inquirer or the Los Angeles Times. These papers serve huge populations, and the rules and culture of big cities are far different from the feel of small towns. But even these metro papers once ran daily columns that were everyday fare for readers, and now have been left behind.
The Northeast Times, for its part, tries to straddle both worlds. It is a community newspaper in a big city. We cover a diverse population of about 410,000 and deliver about 110,000 papers a week. We don’t shy away from the big news stories, like property tax reassessments, the threatened closing of St. Hubert, or the mess at Traffic Court. At the same time, we strive to have a hometown feel.
Readers often tell us what they like best about the Times is that it tells them what is going on in their neighborhoods. They frequently cite the crime reports as well as the news that comes out of the civic association meetings.
You might have noticed over the last few weeks that we’ve recommitted to running our community pages on a regular basis. By this, I mean the pages that tell of birthdays, engagements, military news and dean’s list honors.
These are celebratory moments in daily lives and they are worthy of mention. Our hope is that they are clipped and posted on refrigerators, shared among friends and mailed off to relatives in far-flung places.
Joyce Ruggero, our community editor who handles this news with diligence and great care, tells me that these community pages have not drawn as many submissions as they once did. Perhaps, it is because they did not appear regularly for a good many months.
So, now that you know we are committed to running them, won’t you take a few minutes to send this information to her, either by e-mail at email@example.com or by mail to 2512 Metropolitan Dr., Trevose, PA 19053.
In addition to these pages, we also remain committed to running a two-page Community Calendar every week that lists dozens of events in the Northeast. (When the newshole dictates that the calendar can only be one page, we run the full two pages online.) On our pages, you’ll also find detailed lists of trips offered by community groups, bus trips to casinos, reunion information and religious services across the Northeast.
All of this represents a big commitment of staff power and space on our part. But if you do your part and send in the birthdays, engagements and military news, we promise to publish them in a timely way. Of course, it’s up to you whether you paste them in a scrapbook. ••
Editor Lillian Swanson can be reached at 215-354-3040 or firstname.lastname@example.org