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My Side: Let’s work together to keep local news alive

Have you ever wondered what Claremont would be like if the COURIER didn’t exist? This isn’t going to happen on my watch, but local news companies are dying all over America, and community newspapers are taking the biggest hit.

The Claremont COURIER is not immune to these issues, but we are ready to tackle these challenges head-on with new, exciting reader driven improvements. Don’t worry, the COURIER will preserve our unique style and flavor. We just can’t keep operating the same way, expecting a different result.

In the era of fake news, fact-based information is critical for citizens to make informed decisions about their city, schools, police, business and much more.

The COURIER is by no means going out of business, but our recent reader survey asking questions about coverage, reading preferences, and the internet, will help us navigate through murky news publishing waters. With hundreds of detailed answers—more than 300 and counting—we collected a roadmap of how to make smarter, reader-driven decisions. And that includes advertising using the COURIER’s large marketing reach in print, online, through social media, video and newsletters.

We conducted this research because local news is declining in Southern California too. Because there are so many advertising choices for just about any business—most being digital—the revenue ceiling for the COURIER is slowly declining. Even with our solid print and digital subscription base, readers are less inclined to pay for news information than ever before.

For example, just a few weeks ago, the OC Weekly, an alternative weekly in Orange County, closed its doors after 24 years. With a new owner in 2016—Duncan McIntosh—downsizing has become the norm to keep rising costs under control.

A report by PEN America, “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions,” is a chilling report how the loss of trusted community news sources has impacted political and civic discourse throughout the country. The authors spoke to dozens of journalists, elected officials and activists, who described how newsroom cutbacks impacted how public officials were held accountable.

“At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared fact-based discourse on the issues that most directly affect us is more essential and more elusive than ever,” they reported.

 

Key to our success

Over the past 12 years, the COURIER has used technology to streamline the production process, shedding expenses from our print business, without harming our editorial content. But in 2019, there was a clear increase in expenses—price of newsprint for example—and I don’t see an end in sight.

These challenges have created urgency with the staff, but also excitement as we discover new ways to reach out and connect with the community. Our goal is to establish partnerships with people in business for marketing and promotions. We will show Claremonters the wonderful people and places in the city. But at the same time, be that watchdog for issues that impact all of us.

Connecting and creating partnerships also includes our subscribers, many who have supported us for decades. Our readers continue to pay for our content. They’re an enthusiastic group that look forward to their paper each week, or call us wondering when certain stories will be posted online.

This all comes together because of the great COURIER staff. There are dedicated people behind all the stories, photos, headlines, advertisements, legals and video. Our customer service is first-rate. We have talented people—yes, real people—who    answer a wide variety of calls ranging from subscribing to auto accidents.

But the COURIER cannot afford to pay these Claremont professionals without subscription support.

What’s ironic is our readership is at an all-time high. If you add up print, website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, video and newsletter readership, the number of COURIER readers averages 24,900 each week. And this number goes way up with any big news story.

Some of the new changes include more Claremont people and business profiles, a revamped calendar, more news, a redesign of the pages, including page one, cool events, new subscriber options to help readers connect with the community, and an investment in Claremont businesses, including more than $10,000 in free advertising.

And that’s not all!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll write columns to explain the local news crisis, including personal details about the challenges in running a single, family-owned, independent news business. We will be transparent. And if any of you have questions, please email me.

There’s a lot more coming from us in 2020. But now is the time to think about what type of COURIER you want. We are committed to continuing a rich history of producing one of the best community newspapers in the country.

Will you help us? We cannot do this without your support.

Poll

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