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The Thriving Small-Town Newspaper?

As some of the larger newspapers in the country are forced to make cutbacks, and what is happening in Mississippi obviously isn’t different, there is good news for the industry according to a professor at the University of Southern California.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Judy Muller makes the case that small-town weeklies continue to thrive despite the overall gloomy picture. By her count, there are some 8,000 weekly newspapers in print. And according to a 2010 study by the National Newspaper Association, 75 percent of respondents read all or most of a local newspaper every week, and 94 percent pay for that paper.

Thriving may not be the word that many of the paper’s editors who work long hours for little pay (and potentially face community backlash with anything they print), but as Muller points out, these papers fill a void that you can’t get anywhere else. People still like to read about high school sports, crimes, birth/ wedding announcements, obituaries, and anything interesting that may be going on in the community. And this works very well particularly in the small-towns where we know the audience is going to be older than the population as a whole.

One other notable point with these papers- many don’t post their content online for free. As opposed to most major newspapers nationwide (with the Wall Street Journal being the obvious exception), including the big three in Mississippi, they require some type of subscription to read the stories. If you want to know what is going on in Washington (or Jackson for that matter), you have plenty of options and plenty of competition. If you want to know what’s going on in Tunica, the Tunica Times has that ground covered- for a price.

Several of the mid-sized regional papers in the state also charge for content. This includes the Press Register (Clarksdale), the Delta Democrat Times (Greenville), and the Greenwood Commonwealth.

I am not sure when this list was last updated, but check out the Magnolia Report if you are interested in links to weekly newspapers. By my count, they have more than 40 listed.

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