Rural Papers are Weathering Change in Media, Says Stanford Report

By: Geoff McGhee |

The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University has just published an analysis of rural newspapers, including an interactive map showing 300 years of American papers. Created by a team of journalists working together with scholars and students from Stanford’s history and computer science departments, the visualization tracks the growth of media from Boston’s Publick Occurrences in 1690 to more than 10,000 publications in print today.

“The community newspaper business is healthier than metro newspapers, because it hasn’t been invaded by Internet competition,” Al Cross, a rural journalism analyst at the University of Kentucky, told the Center’s researchers. “Craigslist doesn’t serve these kinds of communities. They have no effective competition for local news. Rural papers own the franchise locally of the most credible information.”

According to a 2010 survey conducted by the University of Missouri, Columbia for the National Newspaper Association, 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.

Take tiny Pinedale, Wyoming, home to 2,030 residents and two competing weekly newspapers, the Pinedale Roundup and the Sublette Examiner.  Go to a town council meeting and you’ll probably find a reporter from both papers, alongside a writer for the town’s web-only “Pinedale Online!”

“It is more than a little ironic that small-town papers have been thriving by practicing what the mainstream media are now preaching,” writes broadcast journalist and University of Southern California journalism professor Judy Muller in her new book, Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns (University of Nebraska Press).  “‘Hyper-localism,’ ‘Citizen Journalism,’ ‘Advocacy Journalism’ – these are some of the latest buzzwords of the profession. But the concepts, without the fancy names, have been around for ages in small-town newspapers.”
This story is free to reprint. Please just send us a copy or a link to your story. A longer feature story is also available, along with more details at the Rural West Initiative of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University:

The Bill Lane Center for the American West ( was founded in 2002 by the Stanford historians David M. Kennedy and Richard White. The Center supports research, teaching and reporting about the past, present and future of western North America.

For more information, please contact:

Geoff McGhee
Bill Lane Center for the American West

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