by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher
On the February 20, 2022 edition of the nationally acclaimed CBS news show 60 Minutes, award-winning author Jon Wertheim extolled the value, importance and need for local newspapers. His piece involved the print newspaper industry’s current state of decline.
As I’ve previously opined in The Gazebo Gazette (GG), the GG is the only independent newspaper totally dedicated to reporting local news; specifically Pass Christian, Long Beach and Harrison County.
Since becoming owner/publisher of the Gazebo Gazette in 2017, Hunter Dawkins has made the total focus of his newspaper, “all things local.”
Whether it be covering city politics, youth and high school sports, special events, school board meetings, commission and board meetings or just taking pictures of children at the Pass Christian Splash Pad, Hunter’s focus is on covering local news.
Because of this effort, the GG has been consistently racking up awards from the Mississippi Press Association (MPA) and National Newspaper Association (NNA) for it’s outstanding coverage of the local community.
Now back to the Jon Wertheim story because it effectively outlined the major challenges of running and operating a local newspaper.
Wertheim described local papers as the “soul of a community.” He added that many local newspapers have either been purchased and eliminated or downsized, just like several others on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Many news organizations have worked to push readers from consuming their news via a hard copy to a digitized version of the old newspaper. A lot reminisce about the “good ole days” when you could hold the paper your hands.
Also mentioned was a town in California that had no local newspaper to keep their government in check. The result was the City Council paying themselves exorbitant salaries to the tune of $800,000 just for the City Manager alone.
The story noted comments from former journalist Steven Waldman; which stated in the absence of local reporting, there’s evidence of increased corruption by local officials.
Several bills designed to help local newspapers have been introduced to the United States Congress. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was submitted in 2021 which allows individual business taxpayers tax credits for the support of local newspapers.
The bill also allows local newspaper employers a payroll tax credit paid to an employee for service as a local journalist.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 was introduced in the US Senate that creates a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors regarding the terms on which the news companies’ content may be distributed by online content distributors.
Unfortunately neither bill was passed during the 2021 legislative session.
My point is simple and it is vital to our community for a myriad of reasons to totally support the GG. You can do that by being a subscriber, taking out ads, sharing potential stories with the GG and sharing news articles with others.
We should do everything we can to ensure the success of the only paper covering the interests of our local communities.
For more on this matter, check out the February 20, 2022 edition of 60 Minutes.
I’d also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Hunter for serving the community and keeping the information about local news alive.
For all the customers that invest in the GG and for the advertisers for their never ending outstanding support, in good times and the bad. Thank you!!