What price a newspaper?

newsI saw a pile of local newspapers when I was at the supermarket on Saturday. They weren’t free: they wanted 40c for a copy, the cover announced.

As I’m new to the area, I thought perhaps the local rag or ‘two-minute silence’ as we used to call such publications, would be a good source of community information.

Then when I saw the price, I hummed and hahed, and finally decided not to buy one. As I walked away, I realised how ridiculous that was. It was only 40 cents! I pay 10 times that for a coffee without baulking (well, I do baulk at it, actually, but that’s what you have to pay).

Today, I went back to the supermarket to buy the Berwick News. As a former print-media journalist, my profession for more than 20 years, I feel I should support old-fashioned newspapers, even in their dying days.

Unfortunately, there were no copies left. And the joke’s on me: the assistant informed me that those copies were going free, because they were left over from earlier in the week, when they were sold at the nearby news agent. Today I went to the news agent and got one: also free, though I’d happily have paid.

I know most community newspapers are run by big media chains, but they’re still important. The other night, in my street, there was some sort of emergency, with sirens and evacuation loud speakers, after midnight. I asked on the newspaper’s website if anyone knew what had happened. Someone from the paper has replied and is looking into it.

I met an old friend at a party recently who used to work with me on a national magazine in the 1990s. The magazine moved interstate, then she was out of the workforce for a few years as a full-time mother. Then, about seven years ago, she started looking for a job again. She found one as a sub-editor at a local paper, and loves it.

“I think we make a real difference in the community,” she says. “Everyone in the office cares about the paper, and it’s so nice working in the same suburb I live in.” She’s been promoted, too, and is now chief sub-editor.

It was a heart-warming story. Here’s cheers to all the journos I know who have reinvented themselves, retrained, or found work on a different sort of publication than they once imagined themselves working on. It’s a difficult terrain out there for our profession at the moment. You have to take what you can get: but sometimes, what you get turns out to be surprisingly OK.

Oh, and if you see a local paper for just a few cents, do buy one.

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8 thoughts on “What price a newspaper?

  1. I still feel the most worthwhile and enjoyable newspaper stints I had in a 45-year career in journalism were with regional and suburban publications. This is because they are an integral part of the community they serve and what a journalist does can really make a difference in people’s lives. Suburban newspapers will be around long after the metropolitans bite the dust.

  2. Caron – Local newspapers have the closest ties to communities, and really, that’s where life happens. So I couldn’t agree more about their value. They’re the ones that often see things coming even before the ‘big boys’ too.

    • Yes. Interestingly, my international students tell me that this is a ‘western thing’. In India and some other Asian nations, circulation of printed newspapers is rising. He said he was surprised when he came to Australia to find talk of the death of newspapers as physical objects. I’ve read this too. I’m a big fan of new technology, but sometimes I worry that we’ve become so dependent on it that if there was a disaster and, say, the internet stopped working for any more than a few days, the world as we know it would stop. Then it would be the people who knew how to do things in the old way who would be the most needed.

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