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KATIE ZERR: Communities lose more than their newspaper

What would happen to a small town if the newspaper closed its door?
In South Dakota, like many other areas of the country, rural communities are connected through their local newspaper.
Although technology has changed the manner in which some people get their news, not everyone is on social media. Many people still like to hold that paper in their hands, feeling that concrete connection to others in the community.
Rural newspapers are much more than crime and catastrophic events. It is where residents can read about what happened in city, county and school district’s meetings.
The local newspaper is the connection from these boards to the community.
It is where grandparents can read about the accomplishments of their grandchildren on many fields. Their music, academic, sports and personal achievements make the news.
The newspaper is where those who don’t have children in the school district get to know the kids who live in their community. They laugh, cheer and cry with others as they read about them in the local paper.
The newspaper is the written history of towns and counties.
It is where the resident’s life accomplishments are hailed as their passing is noted in the obituaries. If not for the local newspaper, many former residents may pass without old friends realizing they are gone. This is where last goodbyes are said and memories are resurrected.
The local paper is the source for legal information and meeting minutes of other boards in the community are published.
It is where an angler can display a lunker or the hunter a trophy deer. It is where a young hunter’s first deer can be noted or that elusive elk finally bagged by the older hunter is proudly pictured.
On the pages of the local newspaper, residents can wish a loved one a happy birthday. Anniversaries are noted and new residents welcomed into the community with their very first pictures printed to note their birth.
Residents can read about social events in their community. They can read about a neighbor who is fighting a brave battle with insidious disease and winning.
On the pages of the local newspaper, stories of bravery and kindness are written with the words of those involved. It is where people who deserve credit for going above and beyond, get that credit. It is where appreciation is expressed for the hundreds of hours of volunteering it takes to ensure the success of a local event.
In the newspaper, local heroes are hailed, their service to the community and country remembered in personal stories.
It is on these pages that local enforcement officers are seen outside of their daily duties. Volunteer firefighters are thanked for their help in saving people and property and sympathies are exchanged when a neighbor suffers a loss.
On the pages of the local newspaper, the exchange of different perspectives and ideals are presented triggering conversations within the community.
In local papers businesses are connected to their customers. People come into a town for something they have read about in the paper or seen in an advertisement. Tax revenue is generated and the economy is stimulated.
All of these things and much more can be found in local newspapers.
Right now these papers are in a crisis as unrealistic paper tariffs push an already financially strapped newspaper business closer to the brink.
In a political climate where newspapers are constantly under attack, these tariffs could mean the nail in the coffin of some small town newspapers.
These tariffs are unnecessary and benefit only a handful of investors in a New York hedge fund yet they are allowed to continue at the cost of small towns.
Although some may feel that they could easily do without a local paper and continue to get their news on social media, they will miss the local news. Losing a local paper can damage a community. Not only because they will miss the local connections, but because they can lose part of the identity of their community.
As the increasing cost of printing the paper has some newspapers owners wondering what they will do in the near future, rural residents should be wondering what will happen if their local papers cease to exist.
It is not just the owners and publishers that will suffer but those whose livelihoods will be lost if the papers close their doors. In small communities, the loss of jobs hits friends and neighbors and impacts not only individuals but also the community as well.
In small communities the loss of one family when jobs are lost impacts many, from area businesses to the school to a neighborhood.
It is the smaller communities that will be impacted the most.
Residents can make a difference in this situation by letting their congressional delegation know what will happen if the local papers are forced to closed the doors. It doesn’t take much effort to make a phone call or send an email to ask them to fight against these unwarranted tariffs.
But that little effort can make a huge impact on a small community.
– Katie Zerr –