But in the end, the newspaper has turned out to be not only for the people — but also very much of them, too.
“Ultimately it is their community, and they need to let us know what they want us to be investigating and looking into,” Reis says. “They need to know that we’re here for them, too.”
This is where we come in.
I recently wrote about how we can blame the people who own newspapers for their downfall, but that ignores the role we all must play in supporting local journalism.
If you appreciate the news you receive — even if it’s “free” — do something to give back to the people creating it. If you pick up Gazette 2.0 every week, buy a subscription.
Newspapers have not always asked online readers for money but they are starting to do so. The Tribune-Review gives away most of its content online but has started running a logo with each story that asks readers to “support local journalism.” The link leads to a page where people can make a payment of their choosing.
NEXTpittsburgh does not charge for anyone to read its content, but a big blue button on its homepage asks readers for support. Pittsburgh City Paper is marking a year since it started asking readers during the pandemic to help cover costs.
Local businesses need to help out, too. If people come into your shop to pick up copies of a newspaper like Gazette 2.0, run an occasional advertisement that reaches your target audience. Jani started the newspaper, in part, so he could have a place to run ads for the Fox’s Pizza franchise he owns.
“At the end of the day, sadly, journalism has become about money,” Reis says. “It’s being able to print that paper, being able to pay your employees and pay for reporters, and having a website and all the expensive things that come along with being a media source.”
Newspapers have always been about money. But it usually flowed from the people to wealthy publishers such as the 20th-century publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who built a lavish castle on the California coast.
Those halcyon days for newspaper owners have ended, save for the hedge fund investors trying to squeeze the last profits from a dying industry.
Instead, technology has democratized information so no one person can buy ink by the barrel in an attempt to control the flow of information. We all hold that power in the smartphones in our hands.
But as comic book journalist Peter Parker will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. We, the people, have the power to determine the quality of our local journalism.
The founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, Andrew Conte writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you can email him.