I was recently in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and looked at the Sunday edition of its newspaper, the Oshkosh Northwestern. Not only am I familiar with the paper because I grew up reading it, it was my first full-time reporting job out of college. I learned a lot from my editors there. Back then it was privately owned. Now it's a Gannett paper. I'm quite familiar with Gannett -- I've been a staffer at three of their newspapers in my career.
What struck me going through that paper -- and it didn't take long -- was the fact there was so little local news. I think I counted three local stories in the front section, with wire copy making up the rest.
Though very disappointed, I was not surprised. The same holds true for many newspapers across the nation. I now live in Michigan and subscribe to the Jackson Citizen Patriot. Though I am a subscriber, I only physically receive the paper at my home three days a week -- Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. They figure I can read it online all the other days.
Like my hometown rag, this paper runs more wire copy than local copy. They also re-run stories that are in the Monday, Wednesday and Friday papers on the "delivery" days in case you didn't buy it at the newsstand (What? I"m a subscriber! I shouldn't have to get it at a newsstand!). At least the Northwestern delivers seven days a week to subscribers.
What I don't get? Research shows locals still look to their local papers for local and community news. The National Newspaper Association's annual survey of local subscribers shows that 83 percent of readers rely on newspapers for local news and information and 75 percent read all or most of the paper. Yet, dailies are cutting staff and the amount of local news they run.
Of those readers with internet access, 49 percent said they never read the paper online. Local newspapers - are you listening?