As staff writer Jeff Hawkes reported in last week’s Sunday LNP, newspapers are disappearing in the United States. More than “60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies have ceased publication since 2004 as the internet disrupted profitable business models, and advertisers and readers migrated to other platforms,” Hawkes wrote. “Lancaster County hasn’t been spared, losing three weeklies: the Donegal Ledger and Solanco Sun Ledger in 2009 and the Columbia Ledger a year later.”
A survey last year by Pew Research Center found that about 71% of Americans think local news outlets are doing very well or somewhat well financially.
At a celebration marking LNP’s 225th anniversary June 17, LNP Media Group Publisher Robert M. Krasne offered a reality check.
“Please know that LNP has not escaped the challenges facing our industry,” Krasne said. “Its revenues have dropped and its expenses have risen.”
But LNP has set a strategy for surviving — and thriving — in our beleaguered industry.
As Hawkes reported, “The Steinman family will continue to own and manage the newspaper while pledging to put all profits back into news operations. The family sold 10 Delmarva radio stations this year and Intelligencer Printing in 2017, moves that allow for diversification in non-media assets while working to make LNP sustainable.”
Sustainability for LNP, Krasne said, lies in providing “robust, meaningful, unique” local journalism that readers of the print newspaper and LancasterOnline value and will support. “Increasing paid circulation for both the print and online news product is LNP’s chief strategy,” Hawkes reported.
It is, he noted, “a bold gambit,” given that LNP’s daily delivery and single-copy circulation have fallen in recent years. And, Hawkes reported, the percentage of Lancaster County adults who prefer to get local news from print is only 23% — though that compares to 13% nationally, according to the 2018 Pew survey.
That is not an insignificant margin.
People in this county still value their printed newspaper. As Linda Matthews, of Manheim Township, writes in a letter to the editor today, “My day would be incomplete without the paper.”
And so do LNP readers outside Lancaster County. “I say a glowing screen can’t compare with the pleasure of curling up early in the morning with the stories and features of the day in my hands,” writes Chuck Williams, of Cornwall, Lebanon County. “I for one am sticking with LNP’s printed media.”
In another letter, Carol P. Dague, of Manheim Township, expresses her appreciation for LNP’s efforts “to connect with the community in many ways.”
We are grateful for these readers — as well as subscribers to our website, LancasterOnline.
But the reality is this: LNP must prevail against the economic forces working against it and other papers.
“Studies have found evidence that communities without strong local news coverage have weaker voter turnout and civic participation,” Hawkes reported last Sunday. “In places where newspapers close or reduce publishing to less than four days a week, municipal borrowing and rates increase significantly. In counties where a newspaper closed, local governments increased their payroll and the average tax bill rose $85.”
Hawkes noted: “A recent example of LNP’s watchdog function was the filing of open records requests and pursuing litigation to find out what happens to assets seized by the county’s Drug Task Force. LNP also recently obtained a police video of a vehicle stop involving a Lancaster County judge.”
He quoted Earl Wilkinson, the head of the Dallas-based International News Media Association, who asked: “Can we credibly say that ‘We the People’ can exercise our will without access to facts, without access to news, without access to institutions that constantly hold truth to power?”
We, the people, cannot.
And we at LNP cannot weather the headwinds before us without the support of the community we serve.
With that in mind, Krasne asked those gathered at LNP’s anniversary celebration to do the following:
— “Please let our newsroom know about matters that merit attention. Our newsroom telephone number is in the paper every day and available on LancasterOnline. We have a dedicated email address and a website for tips, and even offer an identity-protected tip site. You can also drop information off at our offices.
— “Write letters to the editor or an op-ed for our Opinion section (see how below). Share your views with others in our community.
— “Use us to share your celebrations and to mourn with you. Allow others to participate in your joys and share your sorrows.
— “Promote your products and services with us. We provide the most effective and innovative ways to reach consumers in Lancaster County.
— “And please subscribe. We are your friends and neighbors serving as the watchdog to provide you with the most comprehensive news and information about Lancaster County.”
We ask the same of everyone reading this today.
LNP exists to serve you. We ask you to help ensure its existence for many years to come.
State Senate brouhaha
A fight erupted on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday, as Democrats and Republicans sparred over a bill that eliminated a Depression-era cash assistance program for the poor.
As The Associated Press reported, “The chaos began with a Republican procedural move to block Democrats from offering more than one amendment. ... That motion angered Democrats.”
Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, whose role is to preside over the Senate, ignored a motion to end debate and vote on the bill. In response, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati took to the rostrum and wrested the gavel from Fetterman.
As Democratic Sen. Katie Muth, of Montgomery County, tried to read aloud a letter from a recipient of the cash assistance program, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman of Centre County yelled over her with increasing anger and intensity about points of order and the need for Fetterman to enforce Senate rules. Corman and Muth continued in that way for several minutes, trying to match each other decibel for decibel.
Corman called Fetterman “a partisan hack.”
Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, shouted that Scarnati had “made the rules at that moment so, with all due respect, when you punch somebody in the face and they punch you back, stop whining about it!”
We’ve attended fraternity parties where there was more decorum. And toddler birthday parties whose tiny, sugared-up guests were better behaved.
Brad Bumsted of The Caucus, an LNP Media Group watchdog publication, wrote last week that the “fracas didn’t compare to some legendary partisan spats in the Pennsylvania Senate and House dating to the late 1970s.”
We’ll take his word for it.
But we remain appalled by the lack of civility that was on hideous display in the state Senate chamber Wednesday. And we’d ask any legislative interns who witnessed it to consider it a lesson in how not to behave when one is supposed to be conducting the people’s business.
HOW TO SUBMIT LETTERS TO LNP
Mail to: Letters, c/o LNP, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA 17608-1328.