The dramatic decline of the newspaper industry continued as community newspapers across the country retreated left and right.

Since 2005, 2,200 local newspapers across America have been forced to close their doors. Not only have rural areas lost a lot of subscribers, but the electronic media have swallowed up a lot of the advertising money.

Publishing costs have increased; many small communities no longer have local businesses to buy advertising. The one thing that saves many North Dakota newspapers is the 60 hour week put together by publishers who believe in their contribution to society.

In North Dakota, Langdon (Pop. 1909) was the last victim. But in the last couple of years we’ve also lost papers in Mott, Killdeer, New England, Hettinger and Walhalla. There are less populated communities that print newspapers.

The 2020 census reports the loss of papers from the populations of different municipalities: Mott, 653 inhabitants; Killdeer, 939; Walhalla, 893. Everyone needs newspapers.

The publishers have been ingenious in finding ways to survive. They have their papers printed in other factories; they consolidate publications; some relying more on “boiler plate” editorials.

Meanwhile, Steve Andrist, former CEO of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, has launched an initiative to create more in-state material for local newspapers. He developed a team of writers to generate the news.

Several months ago, I suggested that the municipal treasuries bear part of the publication costs. This raised eyebrows among editors across the state who subscribed to the policy of remaining independent from government influence.

Having studied journalism during my undergraduate years, I understand their professional concerns. It is true that they must be careful. Every city has one or two parish spirits who can influence the budgeting process and editors could find themselves in an unpleasant environment when these parishioners decide to “to have” the editor.

But there are cases where local governments have become concerned about the loss of newspapers. A New York congresswoman sponsored a bill providing tax credits to offset the cost of journalists and a subsidy for subscribers.

Carrie Woerner, advocating for her bill, said that “Whether it’s small towns or cities, New Yorkers need local journalism to reliably monitor and report unique local concerns, school board policy, and city council actions organizing volunteers and activities that enrich our lives. “

What she says also applies to North Dakota. It is about the common good and if a newspaper serves the common good, then the community has a responsibility to nurture the common good.

Most nostalgic people like to think back to when their hometown had a healthy sense of community. While it is not possible to go back to earlier days, it seems communities should preserve what is left and find new ways to create a sense of belonging and belonging.

Many of our communities give up their sense of community without a fight. To lead this fight, newspapers may have to reorient themselves towards demographic and economic change by accepting different modes of financing.

Much of our community life revolves around the local school. Cities without newspapers still have young people competing in a full range of sports and extracurricular activities. For them, school days leave indelible memories, supported by clippings of their exploits from the local newspaper – if there is one. Without the paper, they remain unrecognized.

Every city with a school has young people eager to excel and to be encouraged. The local newspaper gives lasting proof of their efforts. Every city with a school needs a newspaper.

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