Newspapers in a state of metamorphosis

Daily newspapers across North America are facing difficult times. Since 2006, the percentage of people reading a daily paper has declined by four percent.
Fortunately, community newspapers such as the Fort Frances Times and Rainy River Record successfully have held on to their readers. Across the country, 74 percent of Canadians read a community paper each week.
An Ipsos Reid poll released in July found that Canadians turn to newspapers more often than any other medium. The study clearly indicated Canadians believe newspapers carry trustworthy information.
One of the major changes in daily newspaper readers is that the number choosing to read their paper online has grown by almost 50 percent. Now one-third of daily readers are reading the paper online.
It is a troubling problem for newspaper owners.
Newspapers continue to be the main source of news gathering across North America. Whether it is a large city like Toronto or a small community such as Atikokan, the staffs of reporters and photographers are crucial to good journalism.
They are the gatherers of news. They write about the local sports teams. They attend council and board of education meetings. They follow cases through the courts letting readers know that justice is being done. They write about the conflicts faced by municipal councils.
They get to see and tell the joys of high school graduations, and the pains of death from accidents and suicide. Reporters gather and tell the stories of their communities.
Reporters and photographers are expensive—and are the largest costs in producing newspapers. The problem now arising in papers is that with more people choosing to read their papers on the Web, less revenue is being generated to cover the costs of news gathering.
People believe news should be free on the Web. Where they might have paid a loonie to read a sports or political columnist in the past, they now look to read those same columnists for free. As newspaper circulations have declined, the advertising revenue from advertisers also has dropped.
Craigslist, Kijiji, and Workopolis have decimated the classified sections of papers that used to be the largest generator of revenue for papers. Flyers from major retailers have replaced department store advertising that once appeared in papers.
Not every paper produces excellent journalism, but they do write about their communities.
A spokesperson for a newspaper explained the newspaper Internet issue simply. He used the analogy of going to a restaurant and enjoying a most sumptuous dinner and then not paying for the food, the waiters who served you, the person who cooked the meal, nor the persons who grew the fruits and vegetables.
News websites provide that sumptuous dinner, but no one pays the reporters and the photographers who create the stories and pictures. No one pays for the development and maintenance of the site.
Web advertising revenue has not replaced the lost newspaper advertising revenue that pays for the reporters, photographers, and columnists.
It is a growing problem with papers. Across North America, papers are looking to reduce the number of days they publish while some have ceased publishing printed papers entirely.
The remaining online versions are hollow images of the former papers as the online papers have greatly reduced reporters, photographers, and editors.
Community newspapers such as the Rainy River Record and Fort Frances Times have expanded their readership to people who now live elsewhere. Those persons from around the world read the online version of our papers.
Many of those online readers are former residents, summer residents, or feel they have become part of the community through the friendships that they have made here in Rainy River District.
The Internet and the newspaper constantly are evolving. The newspaper is in a state of metamorphosis—and no one is yet certain what the future paper will look like or how it will be read.

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