The power — and challenges — of the local press

The power — and challenges — of the local press
A printing press operator examines a copy of The Coast News on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Advanced Web Offset in Vista. Photo by Shana Thompson

REGION — The fate of the local newspaper — often seen as an important entity struggling financially to stay afloat — has been receiving increased attention lately by experts tuned into the watchdog effects that local news coverage has on local government.

A 2018 report released by the Social Science Research Network, for instance, reveals that when a local newspaper closes, the community it represents undergoes increased government inefficiency and waste.

Furthermore, more extensive coverage of local elections leads to increased civic engagement and voter turnout, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution report. On the flip side, residents are less apt to vote for congressional races that receive limited coverage, which can lead to landslide victories and legislators less willing to compromise.

While there are some places where print newspapers continue to thrive, particularly in areas where older adults live, the general trend is one of declining print circulation. The fact that the internet has completely shaken up the news industry is an understatement.

Age plays a major factor in preferences for print versus digital news. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that only 5 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 often read a print newspaper for news compared to 48 percent of adults 65 and older.

Modern offset presses can produce up to 18,000 sheets per hour, or 300 sheets per minute, but print production in the newspaper industry is at an all-time national low, according to The New York Times. Photo by Shana Thompson

A print newspaper in Central Florida called The Villages Daily Sun covers news and events for a growing retirement community. Its weekday circulation of 55,700 represents an increase of 169 percent since 2003. But over that same time period, weekday newspaper circulation across the U.S. has declined 43 percent, according to The New York Times.

The Coast News — originally called The Beach News when Jim Kydd, who is still the publisher, launched the paper in 1987 — has experienced circulation changes that match the general trend nationwide.

At its peak in 2007, The Coast News and its affiliate editions had a combined weekly print circulation of 80,000. Today Coast News Group circulates between 35,000 and 40,000 print newspapers a week, with the Inland Edition and Rancho Santa Fe News alternating every other week. The online version launched in 2001.

Chris Kydd, the associate publisher of The Coast News, said, “We provide circulation that meets demand.” He stated, “Nothing will ever replace print in the sense that you can stick a printed newspaper ad on a fridge and it doesn’t go away, unlike the constant flashing of our screens.”

Kydd connects that “permanence” with “credibility.” He elaborated, “We are a brick-and-mortar company with people who put their names behind their work.”

At the same time, Kydd acknowledged, “You have to be like a chameleon in this business because it’s a challenge to stay relevant.” He said the Coast News Group will continue adapting to online and social media platforms to deliver news the way people want it.

He doesn’t seem too worried about the outlet’s future.

“We have street cred,” Kydd said. “There are people living here who grew up reading The Coast News. They’re rooting for us to survive, and they come to us to be the ones to tell the stories that matter to them.”

Kydd said he feels “personally blessed by the connectedness” that The Coast News has fostered with the community during his career at the paper.

Some want to safeguard local news and news reporting in general. Theodore Glasser, a professor of communications at Stanford University, told ABC News, “We need to view journalism in the same way that we view libraries and public schools, as absolutely essential to any prospering community.”

Glasser explained how the content published by newspapers gets read by public officials and influences their behavior. And that, he said, is “the power of the press.”

4 Comments
  1. R Hines 3 weeks ago

    Distribution has slowed. Some pickup locations aren’t even filled by the weekend. Hopefully the paper will avoid any political bias. Dropped our subscription to the UT after 40 years recently for just that reason. Keep it beachy! and light!

  2. Nadine Scott 3 weeks ago

    The Coast News is often the only news source we have since the UT tore up the North County Times. It should have every type of article in it, including opinion, municipal news, etc.

  3. Brian McInerny 3 weeks ago

    Thank god for the coast news. Carlsbad has more than 115,000 residents who benefit greatly from a local source for informative factual news. If you add up the populations of all the north county cities covered it represents a substantial portion of San Diego County. We had the Blade Tribune and Carlsbad Journal in the past. It seems everyone is getting their news electronically these days. I am grateful for local stories that deal with local issues controversial or not. A paper can be the soul of a community. I hope the Coast News keeps holding the torch.

  4. wakeupoceanside 2 weeks ago

    Agree, thank God for the Coast News. While Oceanside has seen the return of the Blade, owner is Tom Missett. He who is very upset over losing his bid to digital billboards and even went so much as to sue the City (and lost). He tried in 2014 to get his hand-picked council rep (and lost) he is at it again…with his new shining knight, Christopher Rodriguez. It’s really sad to think this man has lied excessively about all the other candidates in order to try and fool the voters. Well wake up Oceanside, it’s the same crap over! Only this time people realize the Blade is nothing but a hit piece to try and sway the voters! It’s beyond me why any establishment that has a good reputation would advertise in the “Oceanside Rag” it only makes them look bad.
    I think we can all agree, we get enough junk mail. Tell Tom Missett to give it up already, and stop trying to undermine our community. WE need local stories with local issues that are true and worth reading. The Blade is Fake News with a Fake, Lying Owner, Missett. News from the wise. Missett, you missed it. How does the saying go…let sleeping dogs lie.

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