June 7th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 23
Convention talks role of newspapers
AWNA Bear Pit Session: Community journalism and its importance to the communities it serves
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Left to right, AWNA director Mario Prusina and his wife Andrea Prusina, former president of AWNA Dave Bruha, president of AWNA Jason Lyon, past AWNA president Murray Elliott, Government Affairs chair Duff Jamison.
Pass Herald Reporter
The 2017 Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Symposium was held last weekend in Calgary at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino.

The Bear Pit Session investigated the topic of “Community journalism and its importance to the communities it serves.” On the panel were MLA Karen McPherson, MLA Graham Sucha, MLA Sandra Jansen, former politician and author of the novel 13 Ways to Kill Your Community Doug Griffiths, former AWNA president Dave Bruha and Government Affairs Chair Duff Jamison.

The panel discussed the role that a community newspaper serves in its community, the changing landscape of news and how community papers can continue to thrive in the constantly changing digital landscape of media.
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Both community and national newspapers have experienced drastic decline in profitability in the face of the digital revolution. But with the spread of “fake news” and unreliable information through a click of a button on social media, the community newspaper is important now more than ever.

Community newspapers are the chroniclers of communities, recording and reporting a community’s history and transformation. They promote a sense of community, instill identity and foster public debate. Panelists agreed a local newspapers closing down is evidence that the community is dying.

The competition for community news outlets is not with social media outlets like Facebook, but rather with the digital medium.

A key objective for newspapers right now is to promote themselves online, and the challenge is to find equilibrium in conjunction with being online, a business model that works. As to what that model looks like, however, panelists did not have the solution.
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A key factor playing into the survival of community news media is the synergic relationship between local businesses and the local newspaper. With a recent focus on shopping local and supporting small, homegrown businesses, advertising at the local level applies as well. It is a give and take relationship that says, “We are here for you as much as you are here for us.”

Another collaborative relationship vital to the survival of local newspapers exists with the community itself, particularly youth. The panel discussed the importance of engaging youth in the local paper and community events.

Ultimately, the panel agreed that print news is not dying, as was being proclaimed left and right at the advent of the digital era and social platforms. Print is just evolving, trying to find its niche and its place in the digital age.
June 7th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 23
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