CASE: Local newspapers give us our stories
“Who gives us our stories? – Tyrvään Sanomat.”
This simple slogan effectively communicates the mission of Tyrvään Sanomat.
“Major private healthcare company investigating preconditions for operations in Sastamala.”
“Disappointed entrepreneur aggrieved by municipal decision-making.”
“Courageous couple acts quickly to save Seuratalo from fire.”
These three headlines from a single issue of the local newspaper Tyrvään Sanomat are a typical example of how a local newspaper bears its cultural responsibility in its day-to-day operations. If not for the local newspaper, what media outlet would report these stories? While they are important subjects, they are unlikely to be reported by regional newspapers or other major media outlets. If not for the local newspaper, the quaint story of the courageous couple who put out the fire would not be told, the disgruntled entrepreneur’s case would not be heard and the information about a potential business expansion in the area would not reach other entrepreneurs and job seekers.
Local newspapers naturally also bear the normal responsibilities related to the economy, the environment and personnel, but the role of cultural responsibility is particularly highlighted in their case. The local newspaper is a mouthpiece for its community; the reader must feel confident that by reading the local newspaper he or she will know what is going on locally, what is the talk of the town, what problems there may be and what developmental steps are being taken. This is not limited to just news either, as the local newspaper also communicates the news of other local residents to its readers. When a local newspaper is doing its job well, it makes local life and stories accessible to everyone, from a young mother who has just moved into town with her family to a senior citizen who is no longer able to get out and about to find out what is going on in the community.
The operations of a local newspaper that fulfils its purpose and is necessary for its community can support the economic life of its circulation area and promote general vitality by increasing interaction, ensuring that information reaches those who need it and helping local people become and remain familiar with one another. Without the local newspaper, how would the people, businesses and other operators in the town or city know about each others’ intentions, projects, wishes and needs? Information would only be passed around in the form of rumours at the local petrol station’s bar.
However, this locally important role is not automatic for a newspaper. It requires the newspaper to have the willingness and ability for active interaction, to know its readers and to show interest in them. It requires the courage to highlight subjects which some would prefer to keep quiet about, but which the local residents have the right to be aware of.
Local media also needs to recognise its responsibility as an influencer: what will it publish, what will it ignore and why? What is given attention to and in what light, what is not seen as important, what things are not uncovered due to a lack of ability or energy?
The local newspaper has the responsibility to take the bull by its horns and highlight local problems, but it also has a responsibility for the opposite: promoting the town or city it operates in and highlighting positive things. After all, balanced reporting is better than a negative tone, complaining about how bad the townsfolk have it.