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Media landscape challenges the way newspapers deliver information

Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Cronkite News Service Photo by Elizabeth Shell)

Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Cronkite News Service Photo by Elizabeth Shell)

For more than 100 years, our state has been an attractive place for entrepreneurs and investment. From miners to bankers, it seems our business climate has been as attractive as our actual climate. But few businesses have been around longer than newspapers. In fact, nearly half of the state’s 12 oldest businesses are local newspapers.

Starting in 1877, the Daily Bulletin began operations in Tucson and evolved into the Arizona Daily Star. Since 1882, the Prescott Daily Courier has been Yavapai County’s paper of record. One year later, Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun fired up the printing press and began as the Coconino Sun. In May of 1890, the Arizona Republican launched in Phoenix, later becoming today’s Arizona Republic. The Evening Weekly Free Press brought a new voice to greater Phoenix in 1891. We know them better as the East Valley Tribune. And much to the chagrin of elected officials anywhere, the Arizona News Service has been publishing the highlights and lowlights of lawmakers as The Messenger, The Arizona Legislative Review and has been known as the Arizona Capitol Times since 1906.

Newspapers have enlightened, informed and entertained our communities for hundreds of years. Yet today’s changing media landscape is challenging the way they provide information to their consumers. Technological advancements combined with an insatiable 24-7 news cycle have created a hyper-competitive environment where old-school newspaper deadlines aren’t relevant. Tomorrow’s printed headlines are now yesterday’s website update. In this era, journalists are updating their Twitter feed and Facebook account faster than you can say “Stop the presses!”

Unlike other types of media, newspapers offer us professional in-depth coverage of local issues. Town and city politics, community events and concerns facing our children’s schools unites us with our neighbors and enriches the fabric of our community.

It is fitting the National Newspapers Association recognizes outstanding community newspapers at its Annual Convention & Trade Show with awards such as the Newspaper and Education contest, the Better Newspaper Contest & Better Newspaper Advertising Contest and the Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award. Additionally, the convention brings together owners, publishers and editors from across the country to provide business and educational programs and services to improve the quality, reach, and relevance of community newspapers throughout the country.

Newspapers offer us more than a snapshot of present time. They also offer a window to past generations. We can read about events as they were reported at the time and form our own historical perspective. Local newspapers and libraries often have archives available. The Arizona State Archive is home to one of the largest collections of Arizona newspapers and houses an extensive collection of hardcopy newspapers including titles such as the Tombstone Epitaph and the Journal Miner of Prescott.  Additionally, the Arizona Digital Newspaper Program has digitized historic newspapers from throughout Arizona available online at www.azlibrary.gov.

Newspapers provide a vital link between citizens, their government and communities they serve. For decades, they served as the sole provider of information and wielded great influence. While digital media have changed the way people consume media, local newspapers have risen to the challenges and remain a critical element of our lives.

— Ken Bennett is Arizona’s secretary of state.

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