One of the upsides with layovers when flying is stopping at the business in the airport which always sells newspapers and candy. It is of interest to note what lands above the fold in various locales as it gives an insight into what local news operations understand to be pressing news, or what concerns local readers.
But with the downsizing of newspapers and the desire by some owners to place profits above the call for serious journalism and information, there is a truly sad outcome taking place for this profession. And for the readers.
Wisconsin is not immune from the problem.
Take a look at six newspapers from Wednesday, April 6, 2021, published in central and Northeastern portions of Wisconsin. You can click on images to make them bigger, but it does not make them better.
The above newspapers are owned by either USA Today Network or Gannett. That combination owns more than 100 newspaper and digital properties across the United States. If you think the front pages of the newspapers are repetitive you can be assured the same is true for their digital side, too.
What is equally sad is the skeletal OP-Ed pages that have long been a place for community dialogue and strong editorials from the newspaper. When local voices are not given space to opine means that only the ones with a larger platform or microphone are heard.
While investors in the companies that buy up newspapers reap financial rewards the newspaper industry suffers. What constitutes local news and the neighborhood feel and tone of small-market papers shrinks as fewer reporters are employed and too few inches for local news are provided. Cookie-cutter operations, as seen from the examples above, can far too easily spread across a state.
I would strongly argue that such undercutting of newspapers weakens our democracy. Keeping local officials in check with diligent journalism, allowing for the local voters to know what is happening at the school board or county level, and investigating concerns that are at times, not a visual story for television all are reasons we should have robust newspapers.
I would argue that traditional news sources, where facts and standards are applied to the profession, are needed more than ever. Social media, where too many inaccurate and misleading stories abound, requires an antidote. And when it comes to local news there is an absolute need for more coverage and higher standards.
What we are witnessing in too many communities with hollowed-out newspapers is really sad. Is it any wonder there are fewer newspaper readers?
And so it goes.