The 40,000 residents of the city of Bell, Calif. not long ago learned to their dismay the cost of not having a local newspaper.
Turns out, their city council first decided to pay themselves each $100,000, then approved a salary of $784,000 for the city manager and $475,000 for the police chief.
How could such a scandal go on year after year in a town where the average taxpayer earned $28,000 — and 17 percent lived below the poverty line?
Simple: No community newspaper.
The outrageous rip-off came to light only because the distant Los Angeles Times did a story, provoking reform.
We mention this story to call your attention to National Newspaper Week — and to thank our loyal readers for keeping us in business so we can do what we do.
No doubt about it: Even before the recession dried up ad revenues, some newspapers, especially daily, big-city newspapers, were struggling for the attention of readers and advertisers in a world awash with information — much of it given away for free on the Internet.
Then the recession drove down ad revenues for the big, urban newspapers by about 28 percent, resulting in closures and layoffs. Fortunately, average ad revenues fell by closer to 12 percent for the nation’s roughly 7,000 community newspapers.
Community newspapers are still very much alive, and they are an important source of news and information for their readers.
Surveys indicate that two out of every three adults, or about 150 million people, read a newspaper this week. Community newspapers have been holding their own just as many daily newspapers have declined.
Newspaper Association of America research from 2011 by Scarborough USA indicates almost 70 percent of your neighbors read either a printed newspaper or its online counterpart within the past seven days.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that newspapers — especially community newspapers like the Roundup — remain a valuable source of news for more than half of all Americans.
Newspapers remain the primary source for news on local events, including local government, schools and social services. Roundup reporters are out every day gathering information that they will turn into community news stories. But it takes more than just good reporters to create a newspaper. There are many people who are behind the scenes — our production staff, circulation workers, ad sales, front desk and others who work hard every day to ensure the Roundup is the best paper it can be every day, every issue.
Nonetheless, one survey found that most people did not think they would have any trouble keeping up on the news if their local newspaper faded away.
That’s odd — and a little frightening. After all, most of the news sloshing about on the Internet was either stolen from newspapers — or given away by newspapers afraid they will miss out on the vast online audience.
We are a great example. Last year, 380,000 unique visitors viewed our Web site — www.paysonroundup.com — 866,000 times and read 3,602,122 pages. More than 6,000 people buy the printed Roundup each issue, which translates into more than 15,000 readers for each edition and 624,000 papers sold each year. Advertisers account for the great bulk of the money that supports the staff that gathers and packages that rush of news, and we thank these advertisers who see the value in supporting their own business through the Roundup.
So we thank you, our readers and advertisers, from the bottom of our hearts for keeping us around — and hope that you’ll continue to tell us what information you need.
We want to make sure that we’re a friend you would miss — even if the town manager doesn’t make $784,000.