The Walmart-ing of Community News is why locally owned community newspapers are struggling.

The scene is repeated frequently across America. A new Walmart store opens in the community and a giveaway is held designed to bring kids into the store. For the sake of conversation, let’s say it’s a bicycle. The Walmart store manager calls the local community newspaper stating that their store is raffling off a bicycle to be given to a local kid. Not wanting to miss a news story, because kids are a great pull, the local reporter, at the expense of the locally-owned news outlet, covers the raffle and all the smiling faces at the ribbon cutting and it makes great press. Huzzah! Brand new store!

Great expanded offerings inside, local investment! Hooray! The headline and story is splashed on the front pages of the local paper and everyone’s happy, right? Everyone but the ad rep for the local paper, who gets ghosted when it comes time for the paid ads to support the local reporting. It’s the Walmart model, and it’s specifically designed to shut out the locally-owned newspaper.

Locally-owned, operated, and staffed news organizations such as The Northeast News, Kansas City Hispanic News and the Martin City Telegraph are vital to the communities they serve. Their ownership and their staff are embedded in the community they report on daily. They understand the needs of their communities like only a local can and report on and advocate for those communities.

The sad fact of the matter is this: Locally owned community news outlets across the country are in real trouble, many in danger of closing after a lifetime of community news reporting. Case in point, last month, after an over 55-year run, The Jackson County Advocate closed its doors leaving Grandview/South Kansas City without a local news source. No more local school board reporting, no more coverage of the Boy Scout chili dinner whose proceeds send kids to Scout Camp. In short, the organization that took on the task and shouldered the burden of reporting on and advocating for their community is gone. Period.

The Northeast News is no exception. Lagging ad revenue brought on by the pandemic combined with the recent loss of three key accounts have put this community news source that has served the Historic Northeast community for over 90 years in jeopardy of closing its doors forever. Most recently, the Avenue’s newest grocery outlet pulled their ads (see above Walmart model) from our pages, electing to advertise with the New York City hedge-fund owned Kansas City Star’s mail program through Associated Wholesale Grocers. Quick question for those keeping score at home: When was the last time you saw The Star cover any kind of local news in Historic Northeast other than when people get killed? Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Here’s the bottom line. Community journalism needs the support of advertisers as part of maintaining a vibrant and well-informed community. It’s not like the head News Dog is getting rich – quite the contrary on a weekly draw of around $400. Additionally, if we shutter this operation, that’s five of your neighbors that are now jobless. Trust this Dog when I tell you we ain’t in this for the money. It’s our commitment to our community and our passion for bringing award winning news, produced by your neighbors, that have kept this publication in the game.

We hope you agree. If you’re a business and would like our community news organization to help you spread your wings, please contact our marketing representative. You’ll be helping a small business, but moreover, you’ll be helping to guarantee your community continues to receive locally produced, award winning news that directly impacts our neighborhood. Our community will be a better place for it.

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