Opinion: Newspapers remain an effective tool for Bernie
This week’s writer is Ross Connelly, who has been editor and publisher of the Hardwick (Vt.) Gazettefor nearly 30 years. This is an open letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders.
I enjoyed seeing you in the Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro July 6, hearing you speak afterward about community, and learning that close to 1,000 people turned out to hear you speak in Keene, N.H., that afternoon. Your quest for the presidency is gaining momentum.
You were quoted in VTDigger after the Keene campaign stop as saying, “What we have got to do — and the role that you have got to play — is to demand that local and national media start focusing on the real issues. You asked me, how do we defeat this idea that I am a, quote-unquote, ‘fringe’ candidate. You’re doing that here today.”
I couldn’t agree with you more. Newspapers, in particular, do need to address issues that affect their readers’ lives. You and I have talked about that need numerous times when you stopped here over the past three decades, and I’ve made sure the Gazette has done that since my late wife and I bought the newspaper in 1986.
I wrote you the evening after your official announcement in Burlington. In that note, I encouraged you to place political advertisements in weekly newspapers around the country as you campaign. That is a time-honored way to get your views to people. I renew that request.
There are probably 50-60 weekly newspapers in New Hampshire. Iowa has close to 100, and South Carolina is near that number, too. There are around 35 in Nevada and about 20 here in Vermont. More than 7,000 weekly newspapers are published across the country. Some are shoppers and throw-a-ways, but many are paid newspapers that provide solid, local news coverage that fly under the radar of the mainstream press. Advertising in them is a way to give your message some shelf life, which can resonate after a campaign rally and beyond a computer’s screen.
An article published in 2011 by the Rural West Initiative at Stanford University wrote about this: “In the United States, some 7,500 community newspapers — papers with under 30,000 in circulation — still hit the streets, front porches, and mailboxes at least once a week. A 2010 survey conducted by the University of Missouri, Columbia for the National Newspaper Association produced some enviable statistics: More than three-quarters of respondents said they read most or all of a local newspaper every week. And in news to warm the heart of any publisher, a full 94 percent said that they paid for their papers.”
The New England Newspaper and Press Association in Boston has a one-order, one-bill ad service for New England weekly newspapers. The organization can also direct ads to newspapers beyond this region, or your campaign can contact a particular state’s press association.
You value community. Weekly newspapers do, too. Weekly newspapers are an effective way to reach local people. Advertising in weekly newspapers can put your message onto a family’s coffee table, can spark discussion around the dinner table, and can be seen and considered by voters who may not attend one of your rallies or remember a clip from the evening newscast.
Weekly newspapers can get out your message — beyond the choir — and give readers of all persuasions a chance to consider your views. Weekly newspapers have staying power in homes in Vermont, in New Hampshire, in Iowa, in South Carolina, in Nevada, and in every state of the union.
Social media is a good way to reach consumers, the Millennials, and others who are looking for an easy answer or are satisfied with entertainment and sound bites. Hopefully, you will energize them to register and go to the polls. With well-crafted ads in civic media — weekly newspapers — you can offer reasons to residents of rural America, towns, and urban neighborhoods as to why your message is relevant to them. Civic media — weekly newspapers — reach citizens who believe in democracy and vote.
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