The last couple of decades have been pretty rough on the newspaper business. The internet, of course, created more competition, but it also flooded the market with a practically limitless supply of cheap advertising space. Instead of talking to whomever happened to read a general interest paper, advertisers could suddenly reach specific niches at a fraction of the price. Craigslist killed the lucrative classified ads market. Social media created a fresh identity crisis. It was just one bit of bad news after another, and today, total newsroom employment is roughly half of what it was in 1990.
But while a new generation grows up thinking of printed news as a historical curiosity object, like so many phone books, CDs, and film-based cameras, one former Rocky Mountain News reporter begs to differ. M.E. Sprengelmeyer will tell anyone willing to listen that the future of print journalism is print journalism, full stop. No web sites, no apps, no clickbait, no attempting to compete with Reuters, and no padding out column inches with wire service copy. Just produce a relevant and indispensable word and image product of, by, and for a local community, he says, and the attention of readers and advertisers will follow.
Eight years ago and freshly unemployed after the Rocky’s closure, Sprengelmeyer put his life savings where his mouth was and bought the Guadalupe County Communicator, a weekly paper in tiny Santa Rosa, New Mexico, with a circulation of about 2,000 copies. He became the publisher, editor, chief reporter, and guy who answers the phone more often than not.
The move made him something of a regional journalism rock star, which was probably a contributing factor for at least some of the well-tenured columnists, cartoonists, and photographers who soon found themselves contributing to a small town weekly. One prominent photo journalist, the late Mark Holm, took pictures for Getty and the New York Times, but also trekked out to shoot Santa Rosa High School basketball games.
Investing in a quality print product, then selling it to people who want to buy it instead of giving it away for free on the internet. It’s today’s idea so crazy it just might work.
This week’s classified ads:
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