Brittney Lofthouse – MCN Writer
Community newspapers have bonded communities for generations, creating a trend for rural Americans seeking information about their cities and towns. Local newspapers celebrate the crowning of the Homecoming Queen on the front page, right next to the ribbon cutting of the town’s newest restaurant. They often break the news for neighbors when someone passes by publishing their obituary and they have long since been a go-to for job searches or yard sales in the classifieds. As much of a tradition and preservation of history as newspapers are, they aren’t just a relic. They are essential. Newspapers, especially in rural America, often serve as the mouthpiece for a town and is a vital source of connection to life outside of the city limits. With a great number of residents unable to access the internet in their homes, rural America depends on local, community newspapers to stay connected.
A University of North Carolina report released last year, reported that 1,300 localities have lost news coverage. That means that 1,300 communities, towns, main streets, across the country lost their identities, their voices. The closure forges “news deserts” and communities without local coverage. Regional publications cover large-scale events and national headlines, but without community newspapers, municipal elections are silent. Local government has no accountability or outlet to reach citizens. Without newspapers, social media will continue to grow as a breeding ground for rumors and speculation. A newspaper’s absence means unconfirmed half-truths, uninvestigated crimes, and unreported events.
Local journalism boasts a monumental responsibility to fulfill a civil role that just cannot be filled any other way. As print fades away, Jimmy’s little league championship won’t be cut out and hung on the fridge. The school science club grant will go unnoticed. The very things that make towns — that make Franklin, Franklin — will cease to exist.
The devastating reality is that after nearly 40 years of serving Macon County and surrounding areas, the Macon County News is one issue away from becoming yet another statistic of a swallowed up print publication. Despite operating with half the staff of just a couple of years ago, battling the continued rise of print costs, while experiencing a steady decline in ad revenue, the current print newspaper model isn’t sustainable in today’s industry.
But Macon County News founder and tenacious owner, Betsey Gooder, isn’t ready to stop the presses just yet. After monumental support from the community Gooder has vowed to utilize every resource possible to update her business model to meet the changes in the industry, while staying true to the ultimate mission of any print publication, serving the community.
An online fundraising campaign was launched on the website Go Fund Me, and donations can be made in print or by mail to the Macon County News to cover the cost of operations while the newspaper undergoes drastic but immediately necessary changes in hopes of salvaging 40 years of history for Macon County.
We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that it is certainly worth fighting to be able to report about it.