Sam Burnham, Curator
A story in a large, nationally-known newspaper shines a light on the current struggle of small newspapers nationwide. The Vindicator, a local newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio will cease publication on August 31. The paper made this announcement just days after celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Vindicator has been owned by the same family since the 1880s.
You’re probably not familiar with The Vindicator. I didn’t know about it until reading of its demise and I’m a bit of a newspaper junkie. I love checking out the local paper in towns we visit and I’m a sucker for a small town paper. I wrote for my high school paper and I submit editorials to my own local paper.
Just for some background, Youngstown, Ohio is the buckle of the Rust Belt. The town is struggling with a collapsing economy as industries have shuttered their operations there. It has been a domino effect as losses in big industry have led to losses in small businesses. Ultimately one of the falling dominos was The Vindicator.
Operating a newspaper these days can be a challenge. News moves fast and by the time a story comes off the press, television, radio, or digital media have ran with it and moved on. This is especially the case for weekly papers, which are common in small towns. But local papers can also offer stories you might not find elsewhere. Local features, sports, and editorials that shape local policy and hold the powerful accountable. You won’t hear about local corruption on Fox News, TRONC, or Huffpo.
My love for local papers fuels the use of those stories at ABG. You’ll see stories from these papers linked in our social media and cited in our stories. Whether it’s the Pickens Progress, The Tribune & Georgian, The Dalton Daily Citizen, or the Tifton Gazette, small town papers are boots on the ground, finding out what’s really going on in the world.
Obviously there are multiple forces at work in the demise of The Vindicator. The overall economic situation in Youngstown is likely the biggest factor. I don’t know enough about the paper to comment on the need for papers to evolve and adapt to the times. But there’s one other factor that we all need to be aware of.
Just as business and government need to be decentralized, even more so the media needs it. We need small newspapers, small radio stations, small television stations. Of those three, newspapers find a way to exist where the other two don’t. When one of them dies, particularly one that is 150 years old, it stings and we are all a little poorer for it. It’s the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
There is nothing we can do to change the fate of The Vindicator. But in a state that gave us newspaper legends like Henry Grady, Joel Chandler Harris, Margaret Mitchell, Lewis Grizzard, “Bill Arp,” and Bo Whaley, we can preserve that rich history and assure this media platform endures and produces more generations of reporters, writers, photographers, thinkers, and that they hold local power accountable. That requires us to play our part. Support local media, particularly your local newspaper.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire