Saving local journalism is in everyone’s best interest

Office building of the Journal-Eureka, located at 405 E. Main St. in Anamosa. local newspaper
Office building of the Journal-Eureka, located at 405 E. Main St. in Anamosa. CREDIT ANNIE BARKALOW

Local journalists, and the publications that they contribute to, are currently standing at the base of a mountain. The mountain represents the onslaught of industry-defining innovations that continue to shape, and sometimes erode, the very definition of journalism.

We can learn to tame these innovations, or we can let them consume us, but at the end of the day, local journalism — in its basic form — will always be essential to a community’s success.

This is why we’ve been thrilled to see several recent examples of preserving local newspapers in the Corridor.

In January, the University of Iowa’s Daily Iowan announced that it had acquired the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and the Solon Economist, two weekly newspapers located near Iowa City.

The acquisition marks the first of its kind for the student publication. 

According to a news release, the recently-acquired publications — previously owned by Dubuque-based Woodward Communications — will be jointly operated by UI’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, giving student journalists experience with local reporting and the chance to contribute their own work while rubbing shoulders with veteran reporters.

Perhaps the best news to come from this acquisition is that the current staff at the Sun and Economist will remain and the papers’ local editors will continue to lead the editorial direction of their respective papers.

Not only will this acquisition mean the preservation of two local publications, but it will also inspire young journalists who are poised to be the future of the Corridor’s local publications. This fact excites us for the future of our own newsroom.

Another Woodward Communications-owned local newspaper, the 167-year-old Anamosa Journal-Eureka, was recently saved thanks to a last-minute acquisition by Nelson Media Company.

And by “last-minute” we mean that the Journal-Eureka had already announced its impending closure following its Feb. 1 edition, but on Feb. 2 Nelson Media CEO Chris Nelson stepped in to draw up a tentative agreement to purchase the paper, all before noon that day.

Mr. Nelson brings new ideas to expand and evolve the newspaper’s coverage while maintaining the current staff, with the exception of its editor, who will remain with Woodward Communications.

“Local content is the heartbeat of the community,” said Mr. Nelson. “We want to have really good news in our newspaper, but we’re also going to hold the powerful accountable … what makes our democracy so wonderful is the ability (to have) free speech.”

We agree and applaud these valiant efforts to keep local journalism alive. Journalists are people too, and the best coverage is always written by those who call the communities they write about “home.”