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Publisher's Column: We are your ‘Main Street media’

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By Susan Rowell

Editor’s note: Susan Rowell last week became president of the National Newspaper Association, which represents community newspapers nationwide. Here are excerpts of her acceptance speech at the NNA’s annual convention in Tulsa, Okla.

I am beyond honored to join this group of individuals who have led the National Newspaper Association to where we are today. Over 2,000 members strong, representing communities from the East Coast to the West Coast.
I’m a proud small-town community newspaper publisher from South Carolina who has been mentored by many great people over the 32 years I have worked in this industry – some of them in this room. One of my mentors, David Ernest, recently passed away. I had the privilege of working with him for 10 years.
During his life celebration, it was said David was glad he was in the news business at a time when news was real. Those in attendance laughed. But I didn’t laugh. I knew what he meant. We all know what he meant.
Fake news, Facebook news, Twitter feeds, sensationalized TV news reports. How do we know what is even real? The mainstream media are fighting to be first, but how do we know if they’re right?
Just last week we had a shooting in our community. A big-town TV news station tweeted that the victim was dead. Our reporters had a direct line to the coroner. The victim had not died. He eventually died a day later, but at the time of the tweet he was still alive.
I hear a lot of people ask: has the mainstream media lost their way?  
I tell them community newspapers are not the mainstream media. We are the Main Street media.
We report real news every day. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure readers back home define real news as who won the Friday night football game or what the local festival organizers are planning for the weekend. Or who needs help because they lost everything in a fire. Or who really has died. That’s the real news community newspapers provide.
Main Street media covers everything there is in our communities… better than anyone else. Community newspapers were relevant yesterday. We are relevant today. And we will be relevant tomorrow. We are a trusted, credible source of information.
We have our own challenges. It’s not a perfect world. How do we compete in today’s society among all these news and advertising choices? Why are we having trouble retaining readers when we know we provide what they want?  
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that when I look around this room, I see hundreds of years of experience. You all are passionate industry leaders who have overcome many challenges. Together we will fulfill our mission.
I am honored and humbled to be the president of your board of directors.  We want to hear from you as we find the answers, and we want to hear from you so we can continue the discussion of this passion we all share – the passion of Main Street media. Because it’s real!

Susan Rowell is publisher of The Lancaster News and president of the National Newspaper Association.