If you want an example of newspapers that are faring pretty well, get in your car and drive out to the country. While larger newspapers are hurting, many smaller community papers are surviving, and in some cases, thriving. WBHM’s Tanya Ott has the story of one Alabama town that’s getting its first newspaper after more than a century without one.
Pelham’s 21,000 residents live in the shadow of nearby Birmingham. And mayor Don Murphy says the Birmingham News doesn’t pay them much mind. He unfolds the front page across his conference table.
“They’ve got an article in here about Alabaster. At this point I don’t see anything about Pelham.”
And that’s why Murphy’s excited about the Pelham Reporter, a new weekly newspaper published by the Shelby County Reporter. The paper’s staff declined to comment about the new venture. Former publisher Kim Price now runs three other small, local papers.
“Let me just tell you that the rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated. Community newspapers across this country are doing well because they’ve been doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
And that’s “keeping it local”. The new Pelham Reporter covers city hall, education, local businesses and high school sports. Chamber of Commerce president Jennifer Trammell says The Pelham Reporter will lean on local businesses for advertising revenue because the paper itself is free. Ad revenue at small town newspapers is holding up much better than in bigger cities.
“It’s just human nature to shop where you live, obviously, or work. And so they’ll have an extra opportunity to promote particular sales or particular events that are going on in their business to those local people.”
Outside the Pelham WalMart, most of the dozen or so shoppers we stopped hadn’t heard about the new paper. Michelle Schneeder is doing a little back-to-school shopping with her toddler son. She says she doesn’t regularly read any newspaper.
“I usually get most of my information online, but you know I probably would pick it up and glance through it. If there was any coupons that interest me I might clip those out too.”
(LeVan) “I would probably read it one time to see if it’s any good.”
Retiree Frank LeVan says he’d like to know more about what’s going on in local government, but…
“I’m not going to make a special trip after it.”
But Pelham residents will have to make a trip to get their newspaper. To keep distribution costs down, the paper is only available in news racks scattered around town.