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Celebrating the influential power of the local newspaper

19 June 2014 · by Peter Marsh

What media is more influential to local audiences than the newspaper company? None. Local media associations worldwide are celebrating that fact.

Image of a local newspaper with a large heart shape cut out of the center.

Let’s hear it for the UK’s Newspaper Society (NS), which celebrated Local Newspaper Week recently. During this year’s event, the NS launched “Making a Difference,” a campaign designed to highlight local media’s ability to influence the lives of individuals in a way that no other media can. 

As part of this campaign, several UK celebrities share their thoughts on the importance of local newspapers in a very direct, compelling, and uniquely personal manner. 

Here are three examples: 

Actress Dame Helen Mirren“By reporting on local events and performances, local and regional newspapers play an important part in promoting and sustaining the arts at a local level. Theatres up and down Britain rely on this exposure and support from their local papers to communicate effectively with both new and existing audiences. 

“Of course, this is not the only important function performed by local newspapers. They campaign on behalf of their readers, expose wrongdoing and corruption, and uphold free speech.

Olympic triple jumper gold medalist Jonathan Edwards“By giving people who might not otherwise be heard a powerful voice, local papers can bring about real, positive change for individuals and organisations who badly need help but have nowhere else to turn. 

In the age of social media in which anyone can be a publisher, local newspapers’ role as a source of trusted and accurate information has become even more vital.

And, Lizzy Yarnold, gold medalist in skeleton at the Sochi Winter Olympics: “Local media plays an incredibly important role in making a difference to the lives of individuals in local communities … in a way that no other media can – whether it is raising funds for a life-saving operation, campaigning to stop a sports centre from closing, raising awareness of a local charity or cleaning up a local park. 

“Local newspapers act as a force for good in their communities, and can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

I urge you to check out these Local Newspaper Week celebrity articles here.

On this side of the Atlantic, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the great work done by the Local Media Association (LMA). With more than 2,100 local and community newspapers serving more than 22 million readers, the LMA sponsors significant programmes, including the Local Media Foundation, which has a mission “to educate and guide media companies through their digital transformation to better serve local communities.”

Finally, a huge shout-out to The Daily Review, a Times Shamrock newspaper in Towanda, Pennsylvania, United States. For this year’s Daily Review Scholarship Awards, high school students were asked to write an essay about why a local newspaper is important to its community.

The first-place winner, Mackenzie Hafer, wrote about how her grandfather purchased a subscription to the local newspaper for his nephew, Ed, just before Ed was sent to Vietnam: 

“Undoubtedly, however, the most beneficial aspect that Ed derived from reading his local newspaper those seemingly unbearable months in Vietnam was the comfort and companionship it provided when he most needed it.

A bond formed between Ed and his community when he read information about local events, learned about good deeds performed by local citizens, and updated his calendar with public service announcements.

News of the couple down the street celebrating an anniversary, his best friend excelling at college, or the child next door winning the school science fair leaped off the page at him as if he were there to offer congratulations. He could have easily picked up a copy of The New York Times or other global publications, but he would not have felt the personal touch offered by his local newspaper.

“Why is a local newspaper important to a community? My grandfather shared the answer with Ed those many years ago when he brought his hometown to him through The Wellsboro Gazette. College students leaving home for the first time, retirees spending winters in the sunny South, or soldiers serving across the globe can experience the same sentiments and connection to their beloved roots just by exploring the pages of their local newspaper.

Let’s hear it for Mackenzie.

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