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The Role of Your Newspaper

By Ed Parsons - Editor | Feb 24, 2021

Nothing draws the attention of readers of a local newspaper like local news and local people. In a world where people have been led astray due to lack of facts and for political purposes it’s more important than ever to rely on journalism over idle talk and social media.

Much of the American economic, cultural, and civic life is determined by local and state officials, and it’s important to understand what is happening in our communities for the better to offset the negative. Just about every issue you can think of relates to where you live. Everything from education, new industries, and fair housing, to environmental sustainability. Voters, residents, and taxpayers need to know what is happening (or not), and what is working (or not), in their school systems, their city councils, and their state capitals. And local newspapers need to bring that to their readers.

Local publications need to report on the good and the bad, while also providing a mix of the past, present and future.

These examples of what keeps small town newspapers alive also works well in many larger newspapers that have print circulation much higher than the population of their base area.

Concentrating mainly on the business of the counties, the school systems, fairs and festivals, new and old industry, churches, and families, we strive to bring to our readers what they want to read and hear and believe. We are required by law to print the truth. And we pride ourselves on doing that. Yes we make mistakes, but we want our readers to be able to say. “It was in the paper.”

Whether it is a high school athlete who set a record or a student who academically achieved the highest honor, we want to report it. If it’s making repairs to our communities for the better we want to highlight those things. We do this in a variety of ways, through attending meetings, partnering with city, county, and school officials, and with help from a parent company who offers the needed support for success.

We rely on our reporters getting the facts, we rely on our publisher to allow us freedom to cover our circulation area freely with little restraint. We strive to employ honest, respectable people, with the goal of getting the best story possible. And we would be amiss to not mention our use of contributors and correspondents who help us fill our papers with various articles of interest that matter to our communities.

That is the kind of journalism that allows small town papers to survive. The striking characteristic of a quality local paper is its density of purely local, information-packed news stories.

For instance, a front page with five local stories, including city news, street upgrades, pictures of local people and buildings, and perhaps a story or picture of a blighted hindrance to improvement. If you want to keep a healthy circulation, you have to provide the news that people can’t find anywhere else. If there is a “secret” of a paper’s success, it is “that you’re providing information that people can’t find any other place.”

People want to read about new births, engagements, anniversaries, obituaries, crime, taxes, utilities, and everything else that is interesting in their part of the world. Paden City tackled a large water problem last year and citizens now have safer water as a result. There will be more work to the system in the near future. Sistersville moved forward with a plan for a new water system which has inconvenienced the community the past few months. When finished it will be a major difference for years to come.

While those are newsworthy stories about making life better, there are still those who fail to keep up their properties and block progress. Take a look around the area, each community has places of concern. Some are private residences, some are abandoned buildings, others are city owned properties and others are historic places. But in all cases unkept properties undermined the work local officials and individuals do to keep our area attractive.

As a small town newspaper that continues to focus on local issues, we encourage the efforts of community minded groups and individuals, but we are disheartened with some business people and their lack of concern for making Wetzel and Tyler counties a better place to live.

A man once said, “There’s no difference in a litter bug and a keeper of unkept property. They both have complete disregard for their surroundings.”