Pure Rockford—the power of local print media

editorial by BETH ALTENA

It is with interest those of us in the news industry follow global, national and now—right here in our own back yard—changes in print media as newspapers adjust to a more digital information age. Papers have struggled to find a formula that works, blending digital and print format news and advertising. Local businesses struggle to find a way to compete in a global economy. Why shop locally when products from China and other places on the planet are cheaper and can be obtained while sitting at a laptop or through an iPad?

Our closest daily paper, the Grand Rapids Press, announced recently the end of everyday home delivery for their print product with the intent to protect their digital presence and e-edition. Their accounting will be moved to Delaware.

Readers of The Rockford Squire, the City of Rockford’s oldest business, may have noticed we continue to emphasize local news, local sports and local advertising. We haven’t expanded to a conglomerate of newspapers covering a variety of communities.

Many other newspapers are owned by a parent company that makes use of their resources to produce multiple community papers. The Grand Rapids Press, a Booth company-owned paper, is one of several in Michigan, including the group of Advance newspapers, and is a good example of that formula.

At the Squire, we have just one office, here in town in a building we own. Our staff works out of the office, and we couldn’t offer as much local news without the strong support of our community. The sports articles you read are mostly written by unpaid volunteers who, like us, believe the efforts of our boys and girls who are student athletes should be celebrated in print for the enjoyment of the community.

Much of our content is produced right here in town, either by freelance writers who live here, by parents who take the time to write up stories, or sometimes by members of our business community. Some of our news is of national or global interest, if we feel it will be of interest or affect our readers, but not much.

When talking to people while reporting about Rockford, I often hear our town is a Norman Rockwell-like example of pure Americana. Our business community is mostly people who own their own stores and can be found there working most days. I believe the strength of our town, and the businesses here, as well as the local paper, The Rockford Squire, thrives on that appreciation for our charming, picturesque community.

Digital media is probably the new norm and I wish the Grand Rapids Press the best of luck with their digital future. As a subscriber to that publication for my entire adult life, I will miss having it delivered daily to our house. However, I don’t see an e-edition of the Squire replacing the comfort and value of a real print product that you can fold, carry around or cut pieces from and stick on your refrigerator. I hope the wonderful advertisers that make the Squire possible and the readers who use their goods and services will continue to appreciate the power of printed press.

Perhaps it is just sheer good fortune to be working at a small paper with just one community as our focus—pure Rockford—that makes the Squire sustainable as a printed product. We continue to put our stories online on our website, although I believe that the huge rush to be digital is what sent the newspaper industry into the spiral we see across the country today. What pays our bills, however, is the printed advertising you see on every page of the paper. As the country is adjusting to the global economy, it seems to me people are increasingly drawn to appreciating our local economies. Farm markets are more popular than in past years and “Shop Local” is a theme embraced by more and more.

Perhaps the key to a strong local economy is to value those products, people, services that are here at home, and accountable. I purchased a digital card reader from China the other day off the Internet and it was crazy cheap. It also didn’t work. I think the next one will be from one of our techie shops here in town. Maybe it still will have come from China, but if it doesn’t work I’ll go over to the local shop here in town and see them about it. And if you have a question about getting your paper—or for our advertisers, if you need to talk about billing—give us a call or better yet, stop in and we can talk about it. We’re right here.

About Squire News

The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.
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