This will be the 1,072nd issue of The Northern Light, the community newspaper of Blaine and Birch Bay. When we began, this year’s Blaine High School’s graduating students weren’t even born. No one is more surprised about that fact than we are.
Not that we’re still around, but that we’ve been around for such a long time. Widespread internet usage was just getting underway in 1995; the fax machine was king and widespread email usage was still a few years down the road as was the introduction of digital cameras.
What we did have and what made everything possible for low-cost entry into community publishing was the desktop computer. With a few of those and a laser printer, someone could start up a brand new newspaper and that’s exactly what we did in 1995.
Now all of those digital developments have changed the way the news is gathered and how it reaches its audience. Print is dead, we hear. We say not yet, and maybe not for quite awhile either. When it comes to the small local newspaper business, things are looking pretty good, actually.
We don’t cover national and international news, we cover the school board, city council, fire, sewer and water districts, high school sports and the local seniors group, among others. No other regional publication can cover these subjects as thoroughly as we can and that’s why readers continue to pick up The Northern Light every week – to find out what is happening in their neighborhood.
In an article entitled “Small but Mighty “in the June 2016 digital edition of Editor & Publisher, National Newspaper Association president Chip Hutcheson was quoted as saying, “You don’t hear about community papers going out of business. It’s not the doom and gloom that major market papers face. At a recent press association meeting, I met several people who say they started a small paper two or three years ago. I started one in 2008. Weekly and small dailies are faring better than our major counterparts.”
The article cited a 2013 study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute that found 67 percent of residents in small U.S. communities read local newspapers ranging from one to seven days a week. Our readership levels are even higher due to the fact that we distribute the vast majority of copies using (at great expense!) the U.S. Postal Service.
Approximately 23,000 people read The Northern Light each week; 75 percent report that they often make purchases based on advertisements they have seen in the paper according to a readership study by the Circulation Verification Council.
Readers aren’t just reading us in print – they see us online in our web edition and through social media. A recent post on Facebook reached 23,623 people.
In other words, we’re alive and doing swell thanks to our readers and our advertisers. What we aren’t is complacent. Technology and how people access our content will continue to change and we need to be ready. We expect to be letting you know what’s happening in our community for a long time to come.
Patrick Grubb and Louise Mugar
The Northern Light