The Rogue Valley Times – 1 year later

Our guest speaker on Wednesday, January 31st, was David Sommers, fellow club member and the Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer for the Rogue Valley Times (RVT). David was introduced by Doug Schmor.

David delivered a passionate presentation covering the state of RVT and the state of local journalism across the nation. He led his presentation with the quote “A good local newsroom is an anchor in a community. It reminds a community every day of its collective identity, the stake we have in one another, and the lessons of its history.”

The Mail Tribune shut down on January 13 with 2-days’ notice. Five weeks later, the Rogue Valley Times, owned by EO MEDIA Group (EOMG) began serving Southern Oregon.

Community newspapers are in trouble. They have been disappearing at a rate of 9 per month nationally, or about two per week. One third of the newspapers that existed in 2004 are entirely gone. In the US, there are 200 counties, home to 70 million people, with no local newspaper or news source.

More than a quarter of Oregon’s small-town newspapers have closed in the past 20 years. Sixty-eight % of Oregon’s incorporated cities lack a local news source.

It’s been proven time and time again across the country that without community-based reporters on the ground, doing their jobs; infrastructure suffers, corruption ramps up, voting rates drop, and local businesses and citizens find themselves unable to affect economic and social policies.

David closed his presentation with three epiphanies before fielding questions from the audience.

Epiphany #1: Healthy community news organizations support both our democratic and capitalist way of life at the most basic level – where we work, where we live, where we spend our incomes, where we elect our public officials.

Epiphany #2: Good journalism alone is not sufficient to save local news organizations. The commercial business model that supported journalism for 200 years has collapsed, therefore, it is essential local news orgs develop a forward looking, flexible business model that addresses the needs of both its readers, its community and its owners, donors, or stakeholders.

Epiphany #3: The expectations of both readers and advertisers have changed dramatically. This requires news orgs to adopt a new way of thinking about community- and nurturing it.

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