Are small town papers flourishing?
That’s not a topic I’m going to investigate at any depth here, but it’s a question that came immediately to mind after I sorted through many of the contributions for this week’s Wednesday’s Headlines.
We’ve heard and read plenty over the past decade about the steady decline in readership and dire financial straits that many of the world’s major big city dailies face. But small town and small market dailies and weeklies are largely left out of that conversation. One estimate I recently came across cited that some 8,000 weekly papers continue to survive, if not necessarily flourish, in small towns in the U.S. alone.
In Rockdale, Texas, about an hour’s drive northeast of the state capital city Austin, the Cooke family has owned The Rockdale Reporter since June 1, 1911. This award-winning community newspaper, established in 1893, technically is a Thursday publication.
But every Wednesday, around noon, a truck delivers thousands of copies of The Rockdale Reporter straight to the newspaper building’s back door from the nearby Central Texas town of Bryan. Fresh off the presses of The Eagle newspaper in Bryan, where it is printed, The Rockdale Reporter is immediately readied for same-day delivery to a variety of locations within a 30-mile radius of Rockdale.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, a truck delivered 4,830 copies of The Rockdale Reporter to the newspaper. While Production Manager Shannon Whorton prepared 2,000 newspapers for mailing, labeling the papers with an electric dispenser and tossing them into plastic tubs that co-worker Cliff Dungan carried to a van, the rest of the newspapers were delivered by route drivers for same-day readership.
So essentially — save for the 2,000 newspapers scheduled for Thursday mail delivery — The Rockdale Reporter is a Wednesday paper. Sure enough, about an hour after the delivery truck left, people were showing up at the newspaper’s front door, plunking coins into the old-fashioned newspaper rack and getting their weekly, Wednesday, journalism fix.
Welcome to Wednesday’s Headlines #3, a new weekly project which I hope will evolve into not only a representative survey of what’s transpiring on the globe on any given Wednesday, but also an insightful interpretation of the human relationships that still exist with newspapers in different parts of the world.
This week, 19 contributors answered the call with 25 images from 20 cities in 13 countries –another improvement over the series’ previous week. Many thanks! When you have a few minutes, check out the contributors’ websites and blogs and follow them on social media.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to take part; please check out the few simple rules here. Please spread the word and enjoy.
We continue with “small”.
Rob Bersan [ Soundcloud ] from Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada, sent along these two images, one of the daily from nearby Eganville, and a weekly from Barry’s Bay. Although I’ve been to some of Canada’s largest cities, these types of communities are what I think of when I think of Canada.
Moving on the other side of the planet to present the Guam Daily Post. When I think of Guam, I don’t think of small town, but I imagine a similar community feel on the island of 170,000. You get that impression from the day’s cover, sent by P.K. Harmon [ website ], a poet, artist and educator and long-time resident originally from southeast Ohio.
Which is where coincidentally we head next with this image sent by Joe Walker who checks in with the day’s offerings in Athens, Ohio.
Located in the Appalachian foothills of the southeast part of the state, Athens is a college town, home to Ohio University, where I lived for the better part of a dozen years. I think about it often and these headlines, as Lynchesque as they appear, don’t surprise me. I almost selected it as the lead image, but thought it might scare people off so decided against it.
The lead story? A call for migrants staying in Greece to begin paying 10% of their daily salary for social security.
Northward on the continent, first to Ljubljana where my newspaper reading yesterday was a similar scene to this one, just outside of the offices of Dnevnik, one of Slovenia’s three main dailies.
Each day the morning edition is taped, somewhat haphazardly alongside its sister weekend edition Nedeljski Dnevnik, onto a window for the convenience of passersby and those waiting at a bus stop just outside of the frame to the left. It was the second time this week I joined them.
From Paris, Julie Klene Gonzalez [ blog | Facebook ] checks in from the Gare de l’Est with this reminder of how sublimely beautiful French train station newsstands can be. And from Montpelier, Yuri Rasin [ blog | Facebook ] passes along the front page of Le Monde (oddly, dated the 21st) which reports on and pays tribute to Italian director Ettore Scola who passed away on Tuesday.
Back east to Vienna. Last Wednesday Olaf Brockmann checked in at tea time from Budapest; this week he’s passing along the headlines from a Viennese Coffee House in the 15th district. The topics?
A proposal to limit the number of refugees allowed to enter Austria and the announcement by Desirée Treichl-Sturgkh to give up, after a nine year stretch, the leadership of the Viennese Opera Ball from next year.
Pal Ujvarosi [ website | Twitter ] checks in again from Amsterdam, this time from the Jordaan neighborhood, where, he says, “It often feels like nothing happened for the past fifty years. Judging from today’s headlines, not that much happened in The Netherlands either.
“Some issues with the gambling mafia (what else is new?) and some issues with politics in The Hague (what else is new?). But the afternoon skies were gloriously blue!”
Eric Bellamy [Twitter] checks in again from Dublin, Ireland where the Irish Independent led with a story on the Gardaí, or local police force, spying on the public.
Our northernmost dispatch this week comes from Helsinki, where tireless Italian travel blogger Margherita Ragg [ blog | Facebook ] is attending Matka, the largest Nordic travel trade fair. This is a copy of the Finnish capital’s edition of Metro, a free daily found on many of Europe’s commuter trains. But Margherita admits that she didn’t find it particularly useful.
“Finnish is the strangest language ever so I really don’t know what the headlines are about,” she said.
I agree on the language characterization. Many thanks nonetheless for passing along the image. Enjoy your stay!
Back in the U.S. the national political news that carried the day was Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Whether that will help or hurt the reality TV star is anyone’s guess. I refuse to think about it.
First, the Wall Street Journal’s take from Amy Borgstrom on the 16Y Express bus in Arlington, Virginia; a brief mention in the Chicago Sun Times via book blogger Diane Duke [ blog | Facebook ]; and the cover of the day courtesy of The New York Daily News, as snapped by travel blogger Erin Jorgensen [ blog | Facebook ] in Milford, New Hampshire.
Lebanon is a country of diversity, and its newspapers mirror the different political affiliations and points of view of its people. You will not find a publication that even tries to be covert about its bias, it’s all overtly partisan. People who just want to get their objective news “just the news”, find it necessary to peruse more than one paper and draw their own conclusions.
All the headlines today, and most of this week, are about the presidential elections. Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year now because of a bizarre political gridlock due to the division in allegiances between the main Lebanese Christian parties (A Lebanese long supported convention is that the presidency is exclusive to Maronite Christians). Of course each newspaper is approaching the issue from its own slanted political point of view.
Silvana, originally from Jama, Ecuador, has been based in Chile since last April, and is currently winding down an extended trip through the country’s Patagonian regions, one of my favorite corners of the planet.
The photo shows the two major local papers in this part of Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times (headline folded in, not visible) and the Daily Breeze, which serves a broad swath of L.A. in the “South Bay.” They’re wrapped in plastic, because it’s raining.
Is home newspaper delivery available in other parts of the world? In suburban and rural and some urban areas of the U.S., newspapers are delivered, usually tossed onto the driveway, front walk or lawn by delivery people hired by the publication, not via the postal service. A large percentage of U.S. households receive at least one newspaper this way. Is this common in other parts of the world?
In my travels I have seen dedicated newspaper delivery boxes on or near some homes, office and apartment buildings. We do have home delivery, at least in urban areas, here in Slovenia. More insights are welcome.
And finally, we conclude with the remote stillness of Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua, where Debbie Goehring does not have home delivery.
In fact, Deb describes her island home as “The land where newspapers are only used to wrap vegetables. How I miss a good newspaper to read!”
Thanks again to everyone who participated. To join in next week, and subsequent weeks after that, check out the details here. Please spread the word.