Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 13, 2012

Rumors of newspapers’ death have been greatly exaggerated

On the bulletin board in my office is this cartoon drawn in 2009 by the talented Lisa Benson of the Washington Post Writers Group.

It shows a little old lady replete with thick glasses, hearing aid and sensible shoes, her big purse slung over the four-wheeled walker upon which she is leaning.

Her head is turned to a newspaper sales rack that is hooked up to two intravenous bags and a heart monitor. The big newspaper headline in the rack’s display window is: “GASP, CHOKE, COUGH, COUGH.”

The little old lady tells the machine _ and thus the ailing newspaper industry _ “Hang in there, baby.”

I don’t know why I thumb-tacked that cartoon to my bulletin board three years ago, except that newspaper people seem to be prone to dark, fatalistic humor.

In the same vein, above my desk I have a photo of a black cat on a road, appearing as if it’s always crossing my path.

It’s no secret that newspapers have been struggling. It seems that every day we read about layoffs and declining circulation going on somewhere.

Certainly, other industries are going through similar belt-tightening hard times, but journalists being what they are, those cuts closest to their own lives tend to be documented far more assiduously than those in other businesses.

And because they are subjected to such frequent reports involving gloom and impending doom, a lot of readers assume that any day now, their paper won’t be showing up on the doorstep.

The reality is, however, that newspapers _ particularly community newspapers _ are pretty much holding their own and are likely to continue to do so.

Smaller papers that serve readers’ desire for local news are doing a whole lot better than their larger metro brethren that concentrate on world and national coverage. Whether on newsprint or online or whatever device comes up next, most community papers will outlive us all.

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