COLUMN: Small papers trusted by communities they serve

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The temptation for journalists to work at national and regional news organizations has always been strong, but as the companies that own those organizations merge and identify efficiencies, the number of journalists in those newsrooms continues to shrink. 

There were more than 3,000 media layoffs in 2019 and more will surely come this year. Smaller newspapers are attractive places to work, and not just because of the job security but also because they boast unique opportunities for journalists looking to connect with their audience and serve a community.

Most journalists have ventured into the world of the large metro papers, myself included, but I am the type of journalist that likes to be positioned close to my audience. I see them often and everywhere – the local coffee shop, sporting events or even in our office – and I take pride in the fact that more times than not, our audience is looking to connect with us.

And for the most part, our audience is trusting. Community newspapers rightfully aren’t seen as “the media,” but as a reliable source — and oftentimes the only source — of local information. Community journalists are trusted to tell stories, explain local government decisions and share what’s happening in the community. In many towns, they’re the only reporter at public meetings, and the local newspaper is the only outlet printing information about property tax increases, policy changes and other decisions made by our elected officials that affect the community. And, as studies have shown, without a local news outlet, the community suffers.

The big newspapers offer many great things for journalists, but there’s nothing like the high-impact local reporting and audience engagement of a small, community paper. 2020 is going to be an exciting year for the Mitchell News-Journal, I guarantee it. 

Brandon Roberts is the publisher and editor of the Mitchell News-Journal. Email him at or call 828-765-7169.