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Your No. 1 source for local news

Posted: October 4, 2011 8:31 a.m.
Updated: October 4, 2011 8:31 a.m.

When you want to know, and more importantly, understand, what’s going on in town, we are your No. 1 source for local news. When I say “we,” I mean local community papers like ours.

Arts and cultural events? We’re No. 1. Community events? No. 1. Crime? No. 1. Housing? No. 1. Jobs? No. 1. Local government? No. 1. Schools? No. 1. Social services? No. 1. Taxes? No. 1. Zoning and development? No. 1.

Those rankings come from the latest Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project survey, released just in time for National Newspaper Week, being celebrated this week.

More people, especially older than 40, use newspapers and their websites as their primary source for local information. There is a caveat. Let’s take crime, for example, perhaps our most popular topic. Nationally, 36 percent of people said they rely on newspapers for crime news. Another 29 percent rely on TV and 12 percent on the Internet, leaving another 20 percent who get their crime information in other ways.

This tells me the way people get their information is far more varied than when I was a kid or even young adult.

In fact, in all the categories where newspapers were No. 1, all of the percentages were under 40 percent.

Pew concluded that while the audience is fragmented, more people rely on newspapers for a “wide range of local topics, more so than other sources.” TV, radio and the Internet may be great for breaking news, traffic and weather reports, but for true local news, you rely most on newspapers like ours.

Yet, nationally speaking, a whopping 69 percent of Americans claim that if their local newspaper disappeared, it would have only a minor, if any, impact on their ability to get local information. It’s even worse among young adults – classified as ages 18-29 -- where 75 percent said they wouldn’t miss their local paper.

Most people cited TV stations as their first source for some topics and second for most, but guess where a lot of TV stations get their stories? Local newspapers. Really.

Now, I know someone’s going to point to Facebook and the like and say they can get their local news that way. Well, yes, someone could write a post about something happening here in Camden. Then some other folk -- maybe even a lot of folk -- might comment about it. In a few, special cases, some of them might post links to source material, like something on the city’s website.

But guess what? Only 16 percent of adults nationwide have ever “posted news or information about their community on a social networking site like Facebook.”

According to Pew, “online networks have yet to become a main source for most areas of local information. Only very small percentages named social networks as the places they turn to for any of the topic areas.” Pew said the two most highest ranking local “topics,” restaurants and community events, were only sought on social networks like Facebook by 2 percent of adults.

The bottom line when it comes to newspapers versus, well, just about everything else is that most Americans aren’t interested in news to begin with. I’m afraid we’re a shallow people, entranced by funny cat photos and inane videos of celebrity wardrobe malfunctions. Very few Americans anymore actually care about what’s happening at city hall, the government center or school district office.

Pew concluded only 30 percent of adults seek out information about zoning -- one of the most basic ways local governments can impact the way you live by restricting where and how you build your house or business.

How about taxes? Taxes are important, right? See if you can figure this out: Pew says 48 percent of people who seek information on taxes turn to newspapers to do so. However, when translated to all citizens, only 22 percent of any Americans rely on newspapers for local tax info. “Thus, while newspapers command this subject area, most people simply do not seek out information about the subject of local taxes,” Pew said.

But then Pew asks, rhetorically, what would happen if newspapers like ours disappeared. Would TV, radio or digital sources pick up the slack? Would one of the Columbia TV stations suddenly start reporting on taxes or zoning in Kershaw County?

I seriously doubt it.

Their focus on “drive-by journalism,” as I like to call it, doesn’t allow for that.

We go deep, sticking with stories until they’re told so that you know not only what’s going on but why and what it means to you.

We have the training and the experience, but more importantly, we have the will to do so and the love of the community we share with you.

Whether as a newspaper you hold in your hand or a website you visit by whatever means, we are committed to being the only true source of local news and information in Kershaw County.

We’re committed to being No. 1 for you.

(Martin L. Cahn is the associate editor of the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. E-mail responses to



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