Carrboro Commons

Introduction to the Roadshow

Posted on May 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Director, the Carolina Community Media Project


The staffs of several Womack newspapers welcome the Roadshow to the Warren Record in Warrenton, May 16, 2007.
Photo courtesy of the Warren Record

Let’s get this straight: Newspapers are not vanishing. At least not my kind of newspapers.

Yes, many major metros are in a circulation free-fall. But not my guys. The small, local or what we call “community newspapers” – papers with circulations below 50k, many of them found off the interstates on the so-called “blue highways” of this nation – are doing very well, thank you.

In fact, these “relentlessly local” papers are so quietly successful that big-city papers have finally noticed and are copying them! Ex: pick up today’s N&O and count the number of local stories on the front page.

North Carolina has only eight papers that might be considered major metros – all the rest are “my peeps” (as my hip Carrboro daughter calls “her people”) – this includes the 192 weeklies and small dailies of the Old North State.

If you’re like me, numbers make your eyes glaze over. So I’ll make this quick. Of the 9,321 newspapers in the U.S. only 217 are considered “large.”

Now listen to this stat: statewide and nationwide 97 percent of our newspapers are SMALL PAPERS. And they reach almost three times as many readers as do “big” papers.

OK, enough math. Let’s cut to the chase.

Veteran Chapel Hill editor/professor Jim Shumaker used to demand that of his reporters when they pitched him a story: Tell me why this matters!

These are the papers that tell you when your garbage pick-up has changed, what the town council is up to, who’s going to be playing at quarterback this week, when the library will open, why the school board decided to adopt a year-round calendar, what’s for lunch at the school, who made the honor roll, when that road widening project will be done and how best to avoid traffic jams…