“The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy – the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities – which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”
— Ronald Reagan
The 1st of June came and went, and the fallout regarding The Lebanon Democrat’s move from five days a week to three wasn’t nearly as bad as anticipated. My guess is folks are trying to be polite about it, or it could be that we did a pretty good job to brace our readers of the coming changes and assure them they won’t lose much of anything aside from the frequency they receive their paper.
To speak quite frankly, that’s not some song and dance. You won’t get the paper each day, Tuesday through Saturday, but the three papers you will get each week will be filled with even more news and information, along with favorite columnists, features and other items you’ve grown to love. We’re also doubling up on comics, puzzles and television listings for those who enjoy those features.
I spoke with several people about the changes in the past month, and the general consensus is they hate it, but they understand. I’m pretty much in that same boat regarding my feelings about the whole thing. It comes just when folks stopped telling me how much they missed the Monday edition. That decision was made nearly six years ago. I hated that call then, and I hate this one now. But I understand, and I think you will, too.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column about the impending tariffs the Trump administration had directly or indirectly imposed on the newspaper industry. Call it foreshadowing, but it really has had a negative effect on how we do business.
Tariffs proposed by the Trump administration seek to drive the price of paper produced in Canada and imported by the U.S. up by as much as 32 percent.
Historically, advertising revenue supported the newspaper. The recession and market forces cut our print ad revenues in half in the last 10 years. With less print advertising, newspapers use less newsprint. In fact, the demand for newsprint in North America has declined by 75 percent since 2000. The decline in the newsprint market is not caused by any unfair trade.
Since the tariffs were announced and collected at the border, newspapers have experienced price increases of 20–30 percent. Publishers are not able to absorb the costs. We will have to consider raising prices on readers and advertisers and cutting back on news distribution. Not only will newspapers suffer, but also our workers, readers and advertisers.
So that’s probably the biggest reason for the print reduction, and probably one that’s a hard pill to swallow for faithful and even casual readers of this newspaper.
Robert Kennedy once said, “No one needs to tell me about the importance of the free press in a democratic society or about the essential role a newspaper can play in its community.” Those words could not be truer today than when he said them.
We are and will remain important to the Wilson County community. I believe that, but don’t take my word for it. Consider what reader Don Gillette had to say in a recent Facebook post.
“The Democrat is a newspaper; it’s not infotainment. Nobody wants unbiased reporting of news anymore – they just want to be entertained with a side order of opinion. This laziness in keeping up with the world around us is how we found ourselves in the mess we’re in today. sad that a Lebanon institution was forced to make this decision, because the public wants to be less informed rather than more informed.”
I appreciate Don’s sentiments, but I sincerely believe there are lots of people who believe in what we do and trust we will be fair in doing it. I don’t blame the public, but I always hope for more readers, especially ones like Don, who appear to get it.
We may not be in your mailbox as frequently as in the past, but we will do our best to make sure The Lebanon Democrat remains the best newspaper in Wilson County.
Jared Felkins is editor of The Lebanon Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.