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24 San Diego Uptown News | June 24–July 7, 2011 FROM PAGE 3


ANNIVERSARY “The first six months were the


most challenging,” Mannis said. “I had 30 years of experience creat- ing and building community news- papers, but not in this economic climate. I knew what a special com- munity Uptown is, but would it wel- come and support a community newspaper?”


But Mannis didn’t have as much to worry about as he’d thought. Although by 2009 (the year Mannis debuted SDUN), the newspaper industry had lost thou- sands of jobs and up to half of its advertising revenue, the losses (also due to the insurgence of the Internet) were mostly among big city dailies. Local newspapers, by contrast, had suffered far fewer staff layoffs and minimal adver- tising revenue losses. Some had even raised advertising revenues and, according to data from Sub- urban Newspapers of America, 26 percent of them had started new growth products. The resilience of local newspa- pers is attributed to their “hyperlo- cal” approach to journalism—what might be termed the “prize cab- bage” method of covering news because it focuses on everything from local gardeners’ vegetables to city council meetings.


Local newspapers have a “ros-


ier future and more optimistic prospects,” a 2011 online survey of 527 journalists conducted by the Communication Research Center at Cleveland State Uni- versity found, citing community papers’ ability to cover neighbor- hoods at the micro level as the niche’s strength. “No small is too small,” Man-


cal news, another reason local newspapers fare well despite the distress in the overall industry and economy is that most are free, which means more people receive them. The Association of Free Community Papers, a national association of more than 300 free community news- papers from across the United States and Canada (AFCP), re-


NEWS


nis concurs. “SDUN is nearly 100 percent local news covering the Uptown communities. We like to boast: ‘More news about Uptown than any other newspaper in the world!’ Male or female, young or old, gay or straight—there is something for everyone who lives or works in Uptown in our paper.”


Along with the focus on lo-


ports that “free papers reach over 97 percent of the homes in their defined marketing areas.” Free local papers also have


high readership rates. More than 76 percent of people who receive them, either by picking them up or by having them delivered, read them, the AFCP said. Fur- ther, 74 percent of those readers say they make buying decisions based on the informa- tion they publish— statistics confirmed through independent audits by Circulation Verification Council. “In many cases, the local free paper is directly influenc- ing more readers to purchase advertisers’ products than the en- tire circulation of the local paid paper,” the AFCP finds, noting also that 61 percent of consumers who read free local papers don’t subscribe to their paid city daily.


But statistics aside, local newspa- pers win readers be- cause they’re relevant to the communities they live in. “We like to run stories about what in-


dividuals in the Uptown commu- nity are doing in their personal and professional lives and how their lives intersect with and are affected by the area’s civic and cultural developments,” said SDUN’s editor, Celene Adams. “For example, we run stories about local artists’ debuts, how City Council decisions affect lo- cal community gardens’ ability


to produce, and how develop- ment of a mini park will further pedestrian connection between residential and commercial ar- eas. Our stories reflect how resi- dents’ values manifest in Uptown in terms of their quality of life.” In the two years since its inception, SDUN has covered a variety of such news and human interest stories, winning Inde- pendent Free Papers of Amer- ica’s (IFPA) top award, first place for General Excellence, at last year’s IFPA national con- ference in Nashville, Tenn. The awards are selected by the as- sociation’s member publishers. SDUN also received 13 awards at the San Diego Press Club’s 37th annual Excellence in Jour- nalism Awards dinner last Oc- tober, including six first-place finishes in the non-daily news- paper category.


Mannis said it was gratify- ing to win the awards in SDUN’s mere second year of publishing and that he’s putting in fewer hours at the office now that the paper’s out of the starting gate. Yet the challenge isn’t over. Because while community news- papers are indeed thriving, they also face unique challenges. The Cleveland Communi- cation Center’s online survey, for example, found that com- mon problems among commu- nity newspapers include: l ack of staff to cover routine public business; staff attrition due to low pay scales; making suf- ficient profits for owners; and economic decline of communi- ties in general. However, Mannis is less con-


cerned about such challenges than he is optimistic about the strengths of local newspapers.


newspapers on a roll


Community newspapers are thriving for a variety of reasons besides their ‘hyperlocal approach,’ according to National Newspaper Association studies. These include: relative lack of competition from other media outlets; ability to compete with larger metro newspapers via the Web, media fragmentation (the proliferation of competing media


channels and technology that increasingly


motivate/enable readers to tune out advertising); and the high credibility readers ascribe to local newspaper advertising content.u


“If any community can sustain a local newspaper, it’s Uptown,” he said. “Since launching SDUN two years ago, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback from read- ers, advertisers and our peers in the industry. We were even able, a year ago, to start a second publication, Gay San Diego. I’m grateful to all our supporters and to our wonderful staff, and I look forward to being here for a long time to come.”u


Local


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