Before email existed, on Thursday nights the Orient staff would create pages by pasting words and images onto boards and hand delivering them to the press room of Alliance Press in Brunswick, our printer of more than thirty years. Soon, however, we will be extremely grateful that we now submit pages as emailed PDFs, because Alliance Press is moving to South Portland.
The Orient isn’t the only small-town newspaper that’s been published in Brunswick over the last few years. The Brunswick Times Record prints there, along with other local and college papers, and this move will likely require changes for each of these papers’ production processes.
Alliance Press is doing all that they can to make sure that the Orient can still be published in a timely fashion every Friday without significant cost increases, and we’re still figuring out exactly how the move will affect us. Whatever happens, we want to acknowledge that this is not Alliance Press’s fault—they’re making the best of this situation, and we are grateful for that. However, for another college or local paper, a move like this could be the final straw that forces them to significantly alter their publication process or prevents them from publishing altogether.
This is but one small stab in a larger attack on local journalism. The number of daily newspapers in the United States has dropped 26 percent since 1970. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, local newspaper circulation numbers have dropped by roughly 30 percent over the past 15 years. In the past decade, overall newspaper newsroom employment has dropped by 45 percent.
What happens when newsrooms shrink? It becomes harder for reporters to meaningfully cover their communities on a daily basis. A study out of the University of Illinois earlier this year found that local governments become less fiscally responsible. A 2015 study from researchers at American University and George Washington University found that a diminished news environment decreases political engagement, too.
As journalists, we’re particularly interested in this aspect of the issue, but similar phenomena are occurring in many other industries as well. Local businesses are forced to move out or shut down when their rents go up. Jobs are becoming increasingly concentrated in major cities, and rural and suburban communities are left behind.
The good news is that change can happen on a local level. Subscribe to your local newspaper and engage with it—send in story tips and write letters to the editor. If you live in a town without a local paper, stay informed by attending town council meetings and contacting your local government officials. Support other small businesses in your communities. And be grateful for the people who wake up at 5 a.m. or earlier to make sure your newspaper is on your doorstep every day.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Nell Fitzgerald, Dakota Griffin, George Grimbilas, Calder McHugh, Devin McKinney and Jessica Piper.