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The Herald is Hanging On – For Now

Community Newspapers in the U.S. and Abroad are Shutting Down

Series: Coronavirus | Story 47

For an industry that is based on telling people what’s going on right now, the news media is sometimes not very good at looking ahead.

We here at the Herald are trying to look ahead, but it’s hard to bring things into focus. One thing is clear – the restrictions on activities because of the coronavirus spread are hitting home.

The Herald depends upon local advertising to pay its bills. What we charge for a year’s subscription to the Herald ($40 locally) doesn’t come close to paying the full cost of getting a Herald to your doorstep. Our best estimate is that it costs us about three times as much as we charge for a subscription. So if we were to charge what it actually costs, a year’s subscription to the Herald would cost $120. At least.

At that level, we’d just be breaking even. We’d be able to make payroll and pay our bills but little else. There’d be no room to give our hard-working employees raises and no money to buy new computers.

What makes up the difference? Advertising. Local businesses buying advertising makes the difference.

Right now, with many local businesses closing up or cutting back, that source of income for the Herald is drying up fast.

We’re not alone

We’re not the only one affected. We are still open, but we know that some businesses are not. Their owners are afraid of losing the business and the employees are wondering how they’re going to pay the bills without a paycheck.

We’re not the only newspaper looking at a rapidly draining bank account, either.

The Guardian, a news media organization in Great Britain, reported March 25 that dozens of towns across the U.K., small and large, are losing their only source of local news as newspapers shut down.

“Major towns including Milton Keynes have lost their only print newspaper, as the economic impact of the coronavirus starts to destroy parts of the struggling media industry,” the March 25 story reported under the headline, “UK towns lose local newspapers as impact of coronavirus deepens.”

The story goes on, “JPI Media, which owns dozens of titles, told staff on Wednesday that all of its free newspapers delivered door-to-door would temporarily stop printing due to the logistical challenges of arranging delivery, alongside the catastrophic collapse in the local advertising market.”

The problem, obviously, is not limited to the U.K. Right here in Pennsylvania, local newspapers are fighting to keep their doors open and continue to provide reliable news to their communities.

Pennsylvania paper

The Press & Journal of Middletown, Dauphin County, is a great local newspaper. Like the Herald, it is a weekly newspaper founded in the mid-1800s and exists to it serve its small community with local news.

On March 25, P&J owners and publishers Joe and Louise Sukle posted a plea to their community:

We’re working hard to keep you informed and to promote local businesses, but we can’t continue without your help. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, is valuable and deeply appreciated. Every dollar will go toward the production of the online and print newspaper.

Yes, a 166-year-old newspaper is threatened with closure due to the changes forced on the community by the coronavirus restrictions.

The Herald is not there yet, but it won’t take too many weeks at this level of income until we, too, are asking for help from the community.

We know we’re not the only business suffering, so we’re not going to sound the alarm bell until we absolutely must.

What you can do

Here’s the bottom line: The crisis caused by coronavirus restrictions is going to hit the Cove community hard. Some businesses are closing and will not re-open without help. Some will struggle to re-open.

Please consider helping if you have the resources to do so.

Consider what businesses in the Cove are most important to you and do what you can.

• If the company sells gift certificates, buy one.

• Instead of ordering online from a non-Cove company, order a local company’s products online or for pickup.

• If you can still visit the store, buy your products there instead of ordering them online. (Practice social distancing as you shop, please.)

• Please consider what the Herald means to you. If having a local news source dedicated to the Cove and only the Cove is important to you, then please consider what you can do.

Right now, the best way to support the Herald is to buy a subscription. You can do so by going to our website at https://www.mcheraldonline.com/subscribe. You can buy up to four years at a time.

You can also help the Herald by supporting our sister newspaper, the Hollidaysburg Herald. It is online only but also offers subscriptions. You can find that order form at https://www.hollidaysburgherald.com/subscribe

Thank you for reading and for your support of community journalism.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to help support locally owned community journalism in Pennsylvania, please consider helping the Press & Journal. You can go to http://www.pressandjournal.com/ and click on the banner at the top of the front page.

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