March 20, 2009

Writer pens a love note to community newspapers, explains why her hometown paper thrives

"Dailies are on hard times, but weekly newspaper readership is hard core," the Daily Yonder says in introducing a piece by Betty Dotson-Lewis, singing the praises and giving many of the operational details of her hometown newspaper, The Nicholas Chronicle in Summersville, W.Va. "This small-town newspaper is a mainstay of Nicholas County," she writes. "On Wednesday evenings a little after 4 o’clock, you will see people braving the coldest or hottest weather, in sickness or health, driving to a nearby convenience store or Wal-Mart to get their copy of their small-town paper."

Dotson-Lewis says the key to success of small-town papers is that "Rural folk are neighborly in the extreme. . . . The majority of rural residents read their weekly paper for dependable and reliable local news." And the Chronicle is "thriving," she writes, because "The newspaper owners live in the community and are involved in community activities," and meet the needs of readers. "The paper is filled with local happenings of nearby small rural communities written about by local people."

The Chronicle recently went online, publishing for non-subscribers the first few paragraphs of a few major stories each week and giving subscribers the choice of the traditional print or the electronic "green edition." The cost is the same, $28.50, except that students can get the online version for $18. (We like that idea.) One couple switched their subscription, but switched back to print, Dotson-Lewis reports, quoting the wife: “I need to hold my paper, turn the pages back and forth, spread it out on the table and take it all in. and if there is a photo of my boys in the paper, I can cut it out.” (This item was originally posted to The Rural Blog)

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