By: Sierra Seneta
Robin Capezzuto, an Edinboro resident, recently lost her own local newspaper, the Edinboro News Journal, after its last issue this past spring. The paper is now combined with two other papers from neighboring areas. The question of the town becoming a news desert is looming over the minds of Edinboro residents.
Edinboro locals, like Capezzuto, will now have less news coverage of their town because the publication covering it will be trying to share equal space with the other surrounding areas.
“The Edinboro paper was something I looked forward to reading every week,” Capezzuto said.
According to Capezzuto, the paper displayed events going on in the community, all of the high school and middle school sports teams, and allowed for local businesses to promote and advertise for themselves.
News deserts are areas where there is no media or news coverage at all. “For the sake of the community, I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Capezzuto said.
Having some coverage by the West County News-Journal still allows for people to feel a connection to the community. Capezzuto said she has joined a Facebook group called “Edinboro Neighbors” that has helped keep the community together amid the loss of the paper.
The Edinboro Neighbors Facebook group was created by multiple members of the community who wanted to make it easier for members of the town to stay more connected.
The group, which has around 2,000 members, was created on May 16, 2019. This was around the time the Edinboro News Journal, which served Edinboro and McKean townships, was closing.
Rachel Kaulis, a senior at General McLane High School in Edinboro, PA, said her school newspaper, The Lancer Ledger, has been discussing ways to get more printed papers to sell. Kaulis’s class had talked about news deserts before, but the discussions have been more in-depth since the loss of the Edinboro News Journal, which used to be delivered to the school.
“It’s really hard to get people to buy newspapers, especially high school students,” Kaulis said. “I can’t imagine working for major newspaper companies trying to sell papers when it is so easy to access news on your phones.”
Kaulis also discussed how the school paper has been branching out and creating Instagram and Twitter pages run by the class to try and promote The Lancer Ledger.
Kaulis’s problems with the school paper are a microcosm of what is going on in today’s world. According to Poynter, 1,300 people are losing local news sources and are not trying to do anything to prevent it, mostly because people aren’t sure what to do.
John Tramontano, director of sales for the West County News-Journal, said he sees the merger as a positive effort to keep local newspapers alive. He pointed out that each publication was struggling financially to keep delivering news as they have in the past.
“The decision to combine the papers was a cost-effective decision, and the benefit of shared resources enables coverage to expand with more resources covering a broader area,” he said. “It is more convenient because it offers the readership expanded coverage of surrounding areas, while not taking away all local coverage.”
Tramontano has been the director of sales at the West County News-Journal since this past spring. He said the West County News-Journal hasn’t had any problems with towns losing their local papers because “no one has lost their voice or coverage.”
Initially, he said there was some concern over the coverage being equal, but once the publication started distribution, people seemed satisfied with the exposure of their area.
Looking ahead Tramontano said he was optimistic about merging with other papers to keep the news sources alive. “There are a few smaller papers in circulation we could help and merge with, but with some of them it would be too large of an area to cover for one paper,” he said.
Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, listed many things that people can do to help areas keep their local papers and news outlets.
“It is important for the youth to get involved with the news” Conte said. Examples of this might be people starting their own newspaper, working for a school, creating a podcast or even making a small news web platform to help keep people updated on current events.
Conte also mentioned that things as simple as “being curious, asking questions, and paying attention to the media will help younger people have a better appreciation for what might be lost in the future, which will make them more encouraged to keep local news around.”