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Newspaper Week reflections highlight Lebanon Local’s story

We certainly didn’t plan it this way, but the Lebanon Local’s anniversary each year falls in the month of October, which also includes National Newspaper Week – Oct. 4-11 this year.
Perhaps not surprisingly, National Newspaper Week has taken on more significance, at least for me, this year than it might have had in the past. This COVID time is tough for everybody, and particularly for newspapers.
A few weeks ago, the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organization located in St. Petersburg, Fla., which owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the International Fact-Checking Network, reported that, since 2004, about 1,800 newspapers have closed in the United States, 1,700 of them weeklies. Many of those were founded in the 1800s, in small towns in Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana – bedrock states where one would think a small-town newspaper might be crucial.
As you read this newspaper, I’d ask you to think about why a newspaper is important to Lebanon.
We published the first edition of this newspaper four years ago, in October 2016, because we saw a growing city that we thought deserved to be served with some healthy journalism.
I’m an optimist. My hunting buddies are probably rolling their eyes right about now if they’re reading this. Unless failure is visibly laughing in my face, I tend to relish challenge and laugh in the face of adversity.
We knew it would likely be tough, to start a newspaper in an era when others were dying. So we founded Lebanon Local as a monthly because we could do that pretty with the staff and resources we had at The New Era, our newspaper up the road in Sweet Home.
It’s worked. You’ve gotten a newspaper every month and we’ve really enjoyed covering Lebanon, a town that’s definitely going places and has justifiably gotten attention across Oregon for doing so.
We’ve had support from people who have subscribed, even though we only publish once a month. We’ve had support from people who’ve advertised, who appreciate what Lebanon Local does and who want it to carry their message to the community. We’ve gotten love and we appreciate it.
Those are critical elements in a world in which social media has saturated a lot of people’s waking moments with its often pernicious channeling of one-sided information that simply contributes to the political and social polarization that’s bothering a lot of us in these days. (Sorry, I recently watched Netflix’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” which highlights this, so it’s all fresh in my mind.)
Social media, for all their promise, though, on a local level routinely convey falsehoods and rumors that would be totally justify our readers quitting their subscriptions. There’s little to no editorial oversight.
Plus, as one top newspaper executive recently put it, “the disruption of the internet, the rise of Google and Facebook and their use of newspapers’ content without payment have all wreaked havoc on the (newspaper) industry.”
The problem for many newspapers, including ours, is that due to the economics, and most recently COVID, we’re doing more with less, and that makes it challenging.
With less staff, it’s tougher to respond with energy when local officials decide to stop providing information, or that maybe keeping government meetings open to the public isn’t really all that important. In an age when everyone essentially has an unlisted number, it’s even harder these days to track people down to get information. It’s can be tough to get a reporter to an event.
But news goes on.
In this issue you should find a range of interesting stories and information that you things about your community and people that you might not know.
I asked earlier why a newspaper is important to Lebanon. What’s in a newspaper that you won’t find on Facebook? Do social media tell you what happened at the City Council or School Board meeting? Are they an independent source of information about what the cops or the fire department are up to?
Government Facebook pages can certainly be helpful – we look at them frequently. But the nature of government is such that it’s not given to objectivity any more than any of the rest of us are. We all like to tell the best story about ourselves.
Truly, though, the story of Lebanon Local has been a good one, helped by a great staff who produce good stuff for you, our readers.
We aim to press on and hope this pandemic passes soon, that our state’s leaders find their way clear to loosen the economic and social constraints placed on many of our local businesses as well as our schools and other organizations, which have all suffered.
Thank you for supporting Lebanon Local, those of you who have faithfully done so, and if we celebrate National Newspaper Week a decade from now, hopefully our story will be a happy one.