It was a comment made at a recent public meeting. The visitor proclaimed that local newspapers are dead, and no longer read by the communities they serve.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth — and we’re not just saying that out of pride. Study after study continues to show that newspapers remain a vital commodity for those who wish to know the verified facts about what is going in their communities, their nation and the world.

Let’s start with millennials. This group, the story goes, has no use for newspapers, preferring instead to embrace the myths and misinformation propagated by social media sites with little regard for facts. Such talk does these young adults a grave disservice, since a 2016 study by Nielsen Scarborough Research found that 79 percent of Pennsylvania adults age 19-35 read a print or digital newspaper in the week prior to the survey.

Moreover, eight in 10 newspaper readers took action as a result of reading a newspaper ad in the past month, the Newspaper Association of America found in a study it undertook, while American Opinion Research documented that newspapers rate highest for explaining the most important local news and information – 20 percent higher than television.

And we’re not just talking news coverage here. Public notice advertising also plays an integral role in keeping residents informed of what their leaders are doing, with 87 percent of Pennsylvania newspaper readers having both read public notice advertising and expressed the belief that the placement of such ads in newspapers is a worthwhile use of government funds. Those figures, again, come from the American Opinion Research survey.

Retailers also recognized the value of the daily newspaper. A study by RAM Inserts found that 86 percent of media consumers use newspaper inserts, compared to direct mailers such as Red Plum (63 percent) and ValPak (2 percent).

And according to the National Newspaper Association, 150 million Americans read community newspapers every week and 51.8 percent of adults rely on community newspapers for their local news. This is four times more than they rely on the next nearest news source and 10 times more than rely on the Internet.

In communities without a local newspaper, government bodies meet, court trials go on, decisions are made every day that affect the public. But nobody reports on them. In those communities, local government can do just about anything and residents won’t know unless they visit their local municipal offices and courtrooms and look up the documents themselves.

As a result, a community without a local newspaper — and there are many of them — is a community that knows far less about its government, schools, businesses, institutions and people — about itself actually.  

The conclusion is inescapable: Newspapers continue to play a vital role in keeping communities informed, and informed members of the community realize that.

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