America needs journalists! A timely battle cry

DOVER – March 22 will be viewed as a significant day in Delaware State News history.
That evening, Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order and released a list of essential businesses that could remain open.
Lives were suddenly disrupted. Delawareans needed information and answers.
We watched as readers – old and new – flocked to DelawareStateNews.net.
The news development created an extraordinary spike in readership. Visits to the website were seven times higher than we typically average.
Of those visitors, 64% were new to the site — with many turning directly to us as a trusted local news source, many finding the site via Google and many more via social media.
The story of March 22 tells us that people count on us.
But it also reminds us that readers expect us to deliver the news on their terms – when, where and how they wish to consume it.
It’s all part of an evolving relationship we have with readers.
We have occasional readers, clicking on a story a friend may have shared on Facebook, and the social media regulars who very selectively pick and choose the stories that interest them most.
Some of our readers appreciate the time-saving, organized rundown that our Daily Headlines Newsletter offers. There are now newsletters that touch on particular interests, such as sports and school news.
For Milford and Sussex County, we have newsletters that have become “editions” devoted to the most interesting stories and opportunities in those communities.
Others are turning pages with a swipe on a tablet or a click on a laptop.
They are among our digital subscribers, many of whom surf DelawareStateNews.net throughout the day.
And thousands of people still read the print product page by page.
What has not changed in our newspaper’s 67 years as a daily is our commitment to local news reporting and our belief that the Delaware State News serves as an important community forum.


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That brings us to the impetus for this column: National Newspaper Week (today through Saturday).
It is not so much a celebration as it is a call to action.
The theme: “America Needs Journalists!”
Newspaper Association Managers is behind the 80th annual recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees. The organization encourages newspapers to write about the role they play in local communities.
Several national newspaper editors and publishers have already written commentaries about it.
As I was reading through them in the past few days, I stopped to reflect on March 22 and the aftermath here in Delaware when reading a piece by Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers, a national trade association.
“While you can’t turn on a TV, radio or even look at Facebook without seeing mentions of COVID-19, there has been as much misinformation disseminated as actual facts,” he wrote. “Chances are your newspaper has covered the pandemic and its real impact on your community.
“Your newspaper is a reliable source that provides information about the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, so you are better equipped to make an informed decision about how best to cope with these new challenges.”
We’re now in our seventh month of reporting on the coronavirus.
It has been a time of health, economic, education and other concerns — amidst one of the most contentious election seasons in our country’s history.
All this, of course, is happening when newspapers are under the strains of suppressed advertising and changes in how people consume news — particularly the abundance they can read for free.
Tom Silvestri is executive director of the Relevance Project, which advocates for community newspapers. His National Newspaper Week commentary offered an interesting angle.
“Newspapers face another big election,” he wrote. “It’s about them. While the United States is riveted by a most unusual presidential election, the newspaper industry is running to win the hearts, minds and souls of ‘voters.’”
He reeled off ways to vote: subscribe; advertise, patronize the businesses who do, write a letter to the editor, sign up for the newspaper’s newsletters, check the website regularly, and learn more about your newspaper’s ownership and history.
By the way, the Delaware State News is a nonpartisan news organization. Our unique corporate structure is designed to maintain our independence.
The company is owned by a nonprofit trust. There are no shareholders, no dividends are paid, and all after-tax profits are reinvested in our journalistic mission.
Readers like you will keep the Delaware State News vibrant and healthy. We greatly appreciate your shared belief that good journalism must be independent, civil and unbiased.
Together, we can continue to build on the unique role the newspaper – and now its digital connections – have as a community forum.


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In closing, here’s our request to loyal readers: Encourage a friend or neighbor to subscribe.
Or, consider a donation to the Press Club to support our mission.
Thank you for your support.
Andrew West is executive editor of the Delaware State News.