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In My Opinion: Why Shop Local?

by Megan Wylie

“Shop local” is a buzz phrase right now. I see and hear a lot of talk about supporting local business and I wholeheartedly agree. When we shop locally, we are putting money back into our local economy. Those business owners can then support local events, the schools, non-profits, as well as other businesses. By shopping locally, we’re also building relationships and, as a result, strengthening our community as we get to know our neighbors who own and are also shopping at these businesses. I see a lot of that happening in Johnson County and applaud the citizens for doing their part and encourage them to continue or to start doing so if they don’t already.

One business that some don’t think about as needing community support is your local newspaper. That’s right, The Johnson County Graphic. The Graphic has been around in one form or another since 1877 and has helped to grow and create a sense of community in Johnson County through our reporting local news in government, school boards, elections, sports, births and obituaries, engagements, marriages, anniversaries, club meetings, police and sheriff’s reports, events like the Peach Festival and the County Fair, the University of the Ozarks news, and much more. We are publishing history as it happens week-in and week-out, and our papers will serve as historical records long after those social media posts have disappeared or been forgotten about. For that matter, the paper’s records will be around long after you and I have been forgotten about as well.

We cover five cities and numerous communities and townships within Johnson County, as well as a few others that border the county. That’s five city councils, four school boards, the Johnson Regional Medical Center Board, Johnson County Quorum Court and, once it’s reappointed, the Clarksville Connected Utilities Commission. We write thousands of words each week and publish roughly 625 pages each year, give or take a few. And we do this with less than half the staff we had 20 years ago. There are just five dedicated people who work hard each week to cover all the news and happenings around the county so that the citizens can be informed with accurate and thorough information.

Many get their news from social media and think that the newspaper is a thing of the past. But I ask you, “Who is verifying the information on social media?” Has the information come from the documents themselves, from witnesses who were there, or the police or sheriff’s reports? How do you know you’ve gotten the whole story or just one side of it? How do you know whether it is comprised of accurate information or just someone’s opinion? Anyone can say anything on social media, and they don’t have to back it up or answer for it. As real journalists, we do have to back it up with facts and we take that responsibility very seriously.

Losing our local paper would have a detrimental impact on our community. Statistics show that around two newspapers close every week around the country, and small communities have been disproportionally affected, creating what are called, “news deserts.”  According to Northwestern University’s Medhill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, the average poverty rate in communities with no local newspaper is five percent higher than the national average and the average annual income of a home in these news deserts is $15,000 less than the U.S. average. The newspapers who are still around typically have significant losses of revenue and profit. On average, newspaper revenues dropped to less than half of what they were in 2005, according to Axios Media Trends. And in communities where papers have closed, even new startup newspapers rarely survive, leaving a gaping hole in local coverage.

In all honesty, those same pressures are true for us here at The Graphic as well. We have been trying to increase our coverage and serve our community well with significantly fewer resources than ever before. We know that everyone is feeling this same pressure to do more with less, while watching prices rise everywhere we turn – from groceries to gas to clothing, you name it, everything costs more these days.  For a newspaper, that means printing costs and postage, as well as operating expenses, taxes, and technology to enable us to put the paper together every week.  The U.S. Postmaster General has promised to continue to raise rates for periodicals, and most recently did so in July with notice that another rate hike is likely coming in the next six months.  I fear we won’t be able to continue to provide the coverage of Johnson County so many rely on and have perhaps taken for granted if our community doesn’t come together to help us – to support this local business that has been the backbone of the community for over a century.

By supporting The Graphic, you are supporting a better Johnson County. Areas that have a local newspaper have lower crime rates, more civic participation, less government corruption, and higher voter turnout. Local journalism is vital to the health of a community. We hold local government accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars, and make sure that they are doing business in the open, rather than behind closed doors. Through our stories, you learn who’s who in the community and develop a sense of belonging and ownership of this beautiful area we all call home.

So, how can you invest in local journalism and support The Graphic, you ask? You can send us feedback. We have been trying some new things. Some work and some don’t. Please tell us what you think! You can send us news, photos, and tips. You can create news by volunteering, attending community events and public meetings, and supporting local businesses who advertise in our paper. I invite you to look through this week’s edition and find one that you can visit and tell them you saw their ad in the paper. You can take out a classified ad when you’re having a yard sale or selling a truck. You can like our page on Facebook, as well as sharing our posts. You can buy a paper each week from a local merchant or subscribe to our e-edition if you prefer to read online.

If you’re a local business owner reading this, would you offer to let us sell our papers in your establishment? Would you let us help you with your print or digital marketing needs? Yes, as of March 2023, we also offer digital advertising and those using it thus far are seeing the benefits! Currently our print and digital readership is around 7,500 sets of eyes. That’s a significant portion of local readers who will see your advertisement in our paper each week. Statistics show that print advertising does still work, and where better would you expect to find advertisements and even search for them, than in a newspaper? We’re still one of the few permission-based forms of advertising around.

When we talk about the paper with many of you in the community, we have heard some very kind and sentimental expressions of how much you value it as an institution here in Johnson County. “I sure wouldn’t want our community to lose The Graphic,” many of you have confessed. We agree. But we need your help, as do other businesses in the community. There’s no better way to express your opinion than by voting with your dollars. We appreciate your support of The Graphic.


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