Our communities matter a great deal. So do the people, the places and the institutions that make up the very fabric of those communities.

The Times West Virginian is one of those institutions.

And for more than 153 years the Times West Virginian has steadfastly been your surrogate, proudly representing you as the area’s watchdog. We know you have other things to do, so we do our very best to keep an eye on your money, your police force and your schools. We attend government meetings, look into spending and talk to our elected representatives. We might not be at all of the events that you might deem worthy of attention, but we’ve always tried our best.

But today local journalism and newspapers like this one are at a crossroads. The disturbing trend has been a continual decline of local journalism in terms of readership, personnel, and ad revenue.

According to the University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Media, nearly 1,800 newspapers closed in the United States between 2004 and 2018, leaving almost 200 counties with no newspaper at all and half of the 3,143 counties with only one newspaper.

The loss of local newspapers in some communities is leading to real consequences in citizens’ political knowledge, participation, and voting decisions as noted in articles in Political Communication, Journal of Communication and American Political Science Review.

And the loss of government monitoring due to local newspaper closures has led to increases in municipal borrowing costs, according to a 2019 article in Journal of Financial Economics.

Finally, here are some startling facts from a 2018 report by Duke University researchers.

Local newspapers significantly outperform local TV, radio, and online-only outlets in news production, both in overall story output and in terms of stories that are original, local, or address a critical information need.

Local newspapers account for nearly 60 percent of the local news stories – more than radio, TV and online-only news combined – despite accounting for only 25 percent of the total news outlets.

Local newspapers account for nearly 60 percent of the stories that meet all three criteria (original, local, addresses a critical information need), with the other outlet categories each accounting for only 10 to 15 percent of the stories that meet all three criteria.

The study concluded, “Overall, these findings suggest that newspapers are the most important producers of local news in terms of the volume of journalistic output being produced for local communities.”

The financial struggles of local newspapers like the Times West Virginian is tragic and a real problem for those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to the notion that a free press is integral to a free society.

But with your help and support, you can ensure that the Times West Virginian will continue delivering powerful, important local journalism to you and our community

A Total Access Subscription gives you our print edition four days a week (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and full online access all day every day for only $22.99 which is less than 77 cents a day. Subscribing is easy, just call 304-367-2527.

Thank you for your support and for reading the Times West Virginian.

Publisher Titus Workman can be reached at 304-367-2503 or tworkman@timeswv.com.

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