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Re: E-M:/ Michigan Newspapers

I too was disturbed by Dave Poulson's news as he reported it on Enviro-mich last week, and agree with his column.

But I think there's a trend that's getting overlooked, and it invites analysis. Community-based local newspapers are growing. To quote the Suburban Newspapers Association website, "The beta results showed that 2007 was a growth year for the community newspaper industry..." Their measure was amount of advertising (up .5% rather than down 7.9% overall), but I think there are other measures as well indicating the same thing.

More and more people pick up my little Norton Shores weekly all the time. The numbers aren't in the thousands, of course, they're in the hundreds or even sometimes dozens. But they're getting the news they want, the very local, detailed, keep-an-eye-on-things stories that involve people they know. And they really read it -- for example I just had a note from someone who said attendance at a concert he sponsored shot up because of my article, for which I interviewed one of the performers.

Most folks have access to a computer and can get the national news, but it's often the local that matters to them -- and since relocalization is at the heart of what I believe in, it aligns very nicely.

And BELIEVE ME, I do all kinds of environmental reporting - from the local food movement (my passion, of course) to mercury in the fish based on NWF's visit to Muskegon a few years back to coal plants to installation of rain gardens in the Mona Lake watershed. I am very careful to explain in lay people's terms the principles behind something like installing a rain garden. When I interview candidates, I make sure readers know where they stand on environmental issues. I cover the local city council each time they meet and communicate what they're doing environmentally too. When I have room I publish the E Magazine question-and-answers columns. And I get lots of positive comments on that coverage.

(And incidentally with my legal newspaper I can do some really good in-depth coverage of timely environmental issues too.)

So even in addition to all the wonderful things happening with web-based newspapers and blogging, there is some good news on the traditional newspaper front too. And in response to Eric Baerren's comment, which came in after I started this - maybe the real damage is done by the dailies as opposed to the smaller weeklies. I know we run lean and mean and get the paper out with minimal expense, and, one would hope, environmental damage. (For example, a print shop prints it so we're not duplicating the whole printing press set of expenses.)

Please don't think that I'm saying it's not tragic that reporters for the dailies are vanishing. It just seems to me if we think about it long and hard we can figure out a way to accommodate for that loss.

Cynthia Price
Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
Editor, Norton-Lakeshore Examiner, Grand Rapids Legal News

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 9:52 AM, Erich Ditschman <theriverdude@sbcglobal.net> wrote:

I enjoyed your column today and agree that the loss of professional journalism is a threat to our democracy.
Do you have some suggestions on how our news services can make money so that they can stay in business? 
Perhaps a silver lining is that we are saving some trees and polluting less rivers.  
Erich Ditschman

From: David Poulson <poulsondavid@gmail.com>
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 9:17:09 AM
Subject: E-M:/ Michigan Newspapers

I wrote this for LSJ: http://tinyurl.com/5rsdt5
I'm posting here because I believe that it has particular implications for environmental protection.


David Poulson
Associate Director
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Michigan State University
517 432 5417