PARKERSBURG - "Newspapers - The Cornerstone of Your Community" is the theme of this year's National Newspaper Week, which begins today and runs through Oct. 13.
Sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers, the week has been observed since 1940.
Jim Spanner, publisher of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and a member of the board of the West Virginia Press Association, points out the vital role newspapers play in keeping the public informed of what is going on in their communities and state and how news affects them on a daily basis.
"Without newspapers' in-depth look at community events, concerns and issues, the public would be left with merely a headline service or a 30-second blurb of major events reported on a television or radio station news broadcast," Spanner said. "While such news broadcasts serve a purpose, they do not and cannot give the details, in-depth coverage and/or analysis afforded the public by a daily newspaper. And, nowhere else can the public express their views on issues of general public concern more effectively than in a newspaper's opinion section," he said.
"Newspapers truly are the cornerstone of a community," Spanner said.
The WVPA, after collecting print and online reader estimates from the state's 22 daily publications and comparing them to totals from 1982, finds - contrary to electronic media allegations - newspaper industry readership has increased 11 percent during the last 30 years.
"With both print and online editions providing greater access to our news reports each day, newspapers in West Virginia are able to reach more and more people," said Don Smith, executive director of the WVPA. "The newspaper industry is embracing the Internet as another delivery method and using online editions to access readers at home, at work and 24 hours a day. Many newspapers report their websites are the most visited sites in their communities. Often by a wide margin."
As part of its recent annual convention, the WVPA collected the data for presentation to its membership. In a poll of daily newspapers, the association asked the newspapers for their print circulation and their number of unique daily online viewers, a number that counts a website viewer only one time regardless of how many times that viewer visits the site per day.
To provide contrast, the WVPA compared the numbers to 1982: the same year Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and the concept of a worldwide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks called the Internet was introduced, the WVPA reported.
In 1982, West Virginia had a population of 1,949,644 and the state's daily newspapers were print-only with a daily circulation of 495,431. That information is based on the U.S. Census numbers and the WVPA 1982 Newspaper Directory.
Today, West Virginia has a population of 1,855,354 and the state's daily newspapers, which now offer a multimedia product, have an estimated daily print circulation and unique online viewer total of 548,370. That information is according to U.S. Census numbers, the WVPA 2012 Newspaper Directory and online estimates from the state's daily newspapers, the WVPA stated.
"Those within the newspaper industry know how much the communities and readers value our newspapers. As the theme for National Newspaper Week states 'Newspaper: The cornerstone of your community,'" Smith said, "but it was good to see the numbers. An 11 percent growth - especially from an already dominating period in terms of media influence - is exciting. We should also note that with the state's population declining in that 30-year period, that growth in readership means our newspapers are reaching an additional 4 percent of the total West Virginia population each day."
Smith thinks those numbers are conservative in that the figures don't reflect the fact that, in many households, two or three people read the same newspaper or use the same computer to view newspaper websites, or that newspapers in businesses and offices are often shared and passed along to the next patron. He also noted the employment and reader/viewer numbers don't yet reflect the totals for the state's 59 weekly newspapers. The WVPA plans to gather the same data from the state's 59 weekly newspapers later this year.
"No one can dispute the impact of the Internet on the newspaper industry; we have noticed, however, that most analysis only addresses the change in print circulation. We must also look at the growth of online viewers," Smith said. "The development of online readership has dramatically increased the newspaper industry's total customer base and its influence.
"West Virginia newspapers are getting their message to more people each day and a greater percentage of the population than they were 30 years ago, a time when newspapers were widely considered the dominant media force in West Virginia. That's a story West Virginia newspapers need to tell more often. Our readers, advertisers, local officials and leaders need to know we continue to build market share and influence in West Virginia," Smith said. "The WVPA thought National Newspaper Week was the right time to share the story."
Overall, there are 81 newspapers in West Virginia, located in all 55 counties, according to the WVPA. Of those newspapers, 22 are daily publications. A same WVPA poll of daily newspapers found that 2,950 people directly receive income from the production or delivery of daily newspapers in West Virginia.
"How important are 2,950 jobs in today's economy? By way of comparison, state officials are still ecstatic - after granting a $20 million incentive package - to have a Macy's distribution center in Berkeley County that will employ 1,200 people," Smith said. "The newspaper industry offers jobs and careers. The positions are stable, varied and located in some of the most beautiful places in West Virginia. Great places to raise a family and build a life."
"We think there are many reasons to celebrate National Newspaper Week," Smith said. "As the WVPA promotes, 'Newspapers are good business in West Virginia.'"